What Do You Think: Was Parking Lot Tumble after Grabbing Pizza to Go ‘In the Course Of’ Employment?

18 Apr, 2024 Chris Parker

                               

Philadelphia, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) – In Pennsylvania, an injury must arise in the course of employment to be compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. That can include a situation where the employee, though not strictly engaged in work duties at the time, is injured on his employer’s premises.

A case involving a hungry liquor store clerk addresses whether an employee who falls in a parking lot on the way back from his lunch break can have a compensable claim. The clerk took a break and drove to a pizza shop. He returned with the pizza and parked. He used the parking lot that served the shopping center where the liquor store was located. The only entrance to the store was through the front doors adjacent to the lot. 

While walking to the front door, the clerk tripped on a concrete barrier and fell, injuring his knee and elbow. 

The state liquor board opposed the clerk’s workers’ compensation claim, arguing that, because the clerk was not working when he fell, his injuries did not arise out of employment.

The clerk admitted that his employer did not direct him to park in any particular place. It was his choice, he said. He also acknowledged that he was on break at the time that he fell.

The Workers' Compensation Board found that the claim arose out of employment and was compensable. The state liquor board appealed.

On appeal, the court explained that in Pennsylvania, an in injury arises in the course of employment in two situations:

1. The injury occurs while the claimant is furthering the business or affairs of his employer, without regard to where the injury occurs. 

2. The employee:

+ Is injured on the premises occupied or under the control of the employer, or upon which the employer's business or affairs are being carried on; 
+ Is required by the nature of his employment to be present on his employer's premises; and
+ Sustains injuries caused by the condition of the premises or by operation of the employer's business or affairs thereon.

Could the clerk obtain benefits for parking lot fall?
A. Yes. He was on his employer’s “premises” when he fell.
B. No. He was on break when he fell.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board v. Berardi, No. 147 C.D. 2023 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 04/10/24), which held that the clerk’s injuries arose in the course of employment.

The court pointed out that the term “premises” is not limited to the property that the employer owns or controls. Parking lots, for example, may be considered part of the employer's premises if they are integral to the employer's workplace or constitute a reasonable means of ingress to or egress from the workplace.

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Here, the parking lot where the clerk fell was a reasonable means of ingress to the work site. Thus, the clerk’s injuries occurred on his employer’s premises.

Further, actually getting to the place where he worked in the store was a necessary part of the clerk’s employment, and thus furthered the employer’s interests.

Finally, the court noted that a claimant is not required to demonstrate that his injuries were the result of a defect in the premises, or negligent operation of the business. “It is enough that Claimant fell in the parking lot while walking to Employer's store; this satisfies the requirement that his injuries were caused by the condition of the premises,” the court wrote.

The court concluded that the clerk was injured in the course of his employment.


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