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What Do You Think: Was United employee who Fell on Walkway to Terminal Injured on Job?

10 Apr, 2024 Chris Parker

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Dulles, VA ( – The extended premises doctrine in Virginia means that employees injured on their way to the workplace from an adjacent location may, depending on the circumstances, have a compensable injury.

A case involving a United Airlines customer service representative who took a fall on her way from the parking garage to the terminal where she worked explains some of the factors that are relevant to whether the doctrine applies in particular case.

On her way to work, the CSR left Parking Garage 2 to enter a walkway that led directly and exclusively to United’s terminal. This was the only parking place that was free for United employees.

When she left the garage, she had two options. Should could go outside and cross the street or take the walkway from the garage–a more direct route. She preferred the walkway, which did not branch out toward other locations. After crossing the silver threshold from the garage into the walkway and taking two steps, she fell and seriously injured herself. At the time, she was still 80 yards from the terminal.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the injury arose out of and in the course of her employment. United appealed that decision.

Addressing that appeal, the court explained that under the extended premises doctrine, the workplace location includes adjacent premises used by an employee as a means of ingress and egress with the express or implied consent of the employer. 

Injuries occurring in places where an employer has some kind of right of passage to and from a building, the court added, such as hallways, walkways, ramps, footbridges, driveways, or passageways, are generally considered to have taken place on the employer's premises. This is true even if the employer does not own or lease the place where the injury occurred.

Did the injury occur in the course and scope of CSR’s employment?
AYes. She was permitted and expected to use the walkway to get to work.
B. No. She was much closer to the parking area than to the walkway.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in United Continental Holdings, Inc. v. Sullivan, No. 0164-23-4 (Va. Ct. App. 01/23/24), which held that the injury occurred in the course and spoke of the CRS’s employment.

The court pointed out that Garage 2 was the only free parking garage. United employees had a right to use the walkway to reach the terminal and were expected to do so. Further, the walkway led directly to the terminal, without branching out toward other destinations. In fact, there was only one other, less convenient option, which involved crossing a street. 

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“[A]lthough the walkway was not the only way to get to the destination, the walkway was an essential means of ingress and egress from the airport terminal,” the court wrote.

Further, this was not a case of an employee being injured in a parking lot. Rather, when the CSR fell, she had already left the parking area and crossed the threshold into the walkway that led directly and exclusively to the United terminal. Once she crossed the threshold, she effectively entered United's workplace under the extended premises doctrine, the court concluded.

The court rejected as irrelevant that the CSR had only taken two steps out of the parking lot when she was injured, or that the terminal was still 80 yards away. Neither factor affected whether the extended premises doctrine applied. What was important, rather, was “the character of the passageway on which the claimant fell,” the court wrote.

Under the extended premises doctrine, her injury occurred on property that was in practical effect part of United's premises. Thus, the court affirmed the Commission's finding that the injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.

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