You can bet slip-and-falls that cause injuries will often result in workers’ comp claims. But what happens when the fall takes place in an elevator before the employee gets to her company’s office?
Valerie Pyles was a therapist for The Mentor Network (TMN) in New Jersey.
One day, as Pyles was following her usual routine to get to the TMN office, she fell. According to court documents:
“As she entered the elevator, ‘one foot in and one foot out,’ her forward foot slid further into the elevator causing her to spin around and fall, resulting in injuries to her neck, left wrist, and lower back.”
Pyles filed for workers’ comp benefits. She and TMN agreed on the facts about the fall itself. Here’s where they disagreed: Whether she had started work when she fell.
TMN was one of 14 companies in the office building. It rented about 18% of the total space available. TMN never told its employees how they should enter the building and get to the third-floor office.
The landlord was responsible for providing and maintaining the elevators. TMN paid additional rent for a proportionate share of operating expenses, one of which was elevator insurance.
The Judge of Compensation (JOC) who heard the dispute noted that New Jersey’s workers’ comp law has this to say about when work begins:
“Employment shall be deemed to commence when an employee arrives at the employer’s place of employment to report for work and shall terminate when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment, excluding areas not under control of the employer.”
Pyles said the elevator was under TMN’s control. Her employer said it wasn’t.
The JOC ruled that Pyles’ injuries weren’t compensable because she hadn’t yet arrived at her place of work when she slipped and fell, since the elevator was beyond her employer’s control.
Pyles took her case to a state appeals court, which agreed with the JOC’s ruling, calling it “well reasoned.”
What do you think about the decision? Let us know in the comments below.
(Pyles v. The Mentor Network, Superior Court of NJ, Appellate Div., No. 2010-19898, 6/24/13)