Safety and OSHA News

Slipped and fell in icy parking lot; does workers’ comp cover his injury?

 

Employees of this business were allowed to park in another company’s lot. When an employee slipped and fell in that lot, were his injuries covered by workers’ comp? 

Clarette Ramsey worked as a cook for Walker Brothers Inc. in Illinois.

One February morning, he parked in the Ace Hardware lot near his employer’s restaurant then slipped and fell on the snowy and icy lot surface.

Ramsey suffered a shoulder injury and eventually had surgery.

He filed for workers’ comp.

An arbitrator denied his claim, finding Ramsey failed to prove he suffered an injury that arose out of and in the course of his employment.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the arbitrator’s decision and awarded Ramsey total temporary disability, permanent partial disability and medical benefits.

The company appealed. A trial court upheld the Commission’s decision. The company appealed again.

Who controlled the parking lot?

In its decision, the appeals court pointed out these facts:

  • Walker had a longstanding agreement with the owner of Ace that allowed Walker’s employees to park in certain spaces in the hardware store’s lot
  • Those same spaces, however, were also open to the public
  • There were no signs that indicated the spaces were reserved for employees
  • Walker didn’t own the Ace lot
  • Walker didn’t control the Ace lot, and
  • The Ace owner paid for all lot maintenance.

In Illinois, when an employee slips and falls off the employer’s premises while traveling to or from work, the resulting injuries don’t arise out of and in the course of employment and aren’t eligible for workers’ comp benefits.

However, the Illinois Supreme Court previously carved out the “parking lot exception.” The court said these are the important questions to answer to determine if the exception applies:

  • Is the lot owned by the employer?
  • Is the lot controlled by the employer?
  • Is the lot part of a route required that an employee take to get to work by the employer?

If the answer to any one of those questions is “yes,” an employer may be on the hook for workers’ comp benefits for a worker who was injured in a trip/slip-and-fall in the lot.

In Ramsey’s case, the state appeals court said the answer to all three questions was definitely, “no.”

Therefore, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision. Ramsey wouldn’t be awarded workers’ comp benefits for his slip-and-fall in a parking lot that wasn’t owned or controlled by his employer.

(Walker Brothers Inc. v. Clarette RamseyAppellate Court of Illinois First District, No. 1-18-1519WC, 9/13/19)

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