You Be the Judge

Did Officer’s Parking Lot Fall Arise Out of His Employment?

By: | February 4, 2014 • 3 min read

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

A city police officer was scheduled to work during a holiday fireworks event. He was required to report to work more than six hours before the event. The officer’s standard practice was to park his personal vehicle in the employee parking lot and go inside to check with his sergeant. Then he would go outside to his patrol vehicle and leave for his assignment.

The officer parked his personal vehicle in the employee parking lot, which was accessible by using a card issued by the city police department. Neither the general public nor officers from other precincts were allowed to park there. The customary entrance to the building was a door located to the side with a stairwell nearby and a short brick retaining wall beyond the stairs. The officer routinely jumped on and over the retaining wall.

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As the officer walked through the parking lot toward the building, he carried his duty belt over his shoulder instead of wearing it around his waist. He saw a coworker, and they began speaking. The officer complained to the coworker that he was unhappy about having to report to work so early for the event. As they were talking, the officer’s foot clipped a cement parking block that was secured to the ground 18 inches from the brick retailing wall. He fell forward, striking the edge of the brick retaining wall with his knee and rolling over the wall onto a sidewalk. He suffered a ligament tear that required surgery. The officer sought benefits.

The deputy commissioner denied the officer’s claim for benefits, finding that his injury did not arise out of a risk of his employment. The Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed. The officer appealed.

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The parties agreed that the officer’s injury was sustained in the course of his employment. However, his injury did not arise out of a risk of his employment. The court found that there was no causal connection between the officer’s injury and the conditions under which the city required his work to be done. For example, the court found that the position of the officer’s duty belt at the time of the fall was not the origin of his injury.

B is incorrect. The court explained that the officer’s risk of tripping over a curb in the parking lot was not caused by his employment but presented an equal risk to any person walking inattentively in the parking lot. The distraction that caused the officer’s injury was not linked to any of his job responsibilities.

C is incorrect. The court said that the mere fact that the parking lot was located at the workplace in the absence of other factors did not create a causal relationship between the officer’s fall and the conditions of his employment.

How the court ruled: A. The Virginia Court of Appeals held that the officer was not entitled to benefits. Snyder v. City of Richmond Police Department, No. 0187-13-2 (Va. Ct. App. 10/15/13).

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]