louisiana 890549 640

What Do You Think: Was Falling into Hole on Way to Car ‘In Course of Employment?’

31 May, 2024 Chris Parker

louisiana 890549 640

Kenner, LA (WorkersCompensation.com) – An employee who is done with her work day may not be done with her work day for workers’ compensation purposes. Just because she’s turned off her computer, rinsed out her coffee mug, and is headed for the parking lot doesn’t mean her injuries during that period are not compensable.

This is illustrated by a case involving a city clerical worker who left work one day and fell into a hole. The hole was on a pathway she used to walk to her car in the parking lot. Not to make light of the facts, because the claimant suffered severe injuries, but I find it’s usually preferable to fall into a hole before the workday starts.

The claimant sued the city for negligence, arguing it was liable for a dangerous condition on its premises. The city asked the court to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the claimant’s sole remedy was workers’ compensation.

The court explained that, with limited exceptions, an individual whose injury arises out of and occurs during the course of her employment may not sue the employer for negligence, but is limited to seeking workers’ compensation. This is known as the law’s “exclusivity provision.”

The claimant argued that her accident did not arise out of her employment because her fall was not associated with the nature of her clerical work. Further, the fall did not occur during the course of her employment because her work day had already ended when she fell.

Could the clerical worker sue city for negligence?
A. No. She was just leaving work for the day and was still on the premises of her work place.
B. Yes. While she was still considered to be at work, the city had an independent duty to her as a resident to protect her from dangerous conditions on its premises.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Favalora v. City of Kenner,  No. 23-CA-368 (La. Ct. App. 05/15/24), which held that the claimant’s injury was subject to the exclusivity provision.

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The appellate court pointed out that even if an employee has finished her day's work and is in the act of leaving, she is still considered to be acting within the course of employment for a reasonable period while still on the employer's premises. It agreed with the city that an office worker's duties include navigating the employer's premises to arrive at or depart from work.

Here, the court noted, the claimant was walking to her vehicle at the end of her work day with the city and thus was still within the course of employment. 

“Because [the claimant’s] injuries were sustained during the course of her employment, we find that her claim falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Office of Workers' Compensation,” the court wrote. 

The court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the claimant was precluded from pursuing a negligence claim against the city.

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