Our North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys understand that compensation claims for injuries that occurred on the way to and on the way home from work are often initially denied by employers under the “coming-and-going” rule. The North Carolina Court of Appeals addressed this issue in Gillette v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.
In Hanik v. Christopher & Banks, Inc., a case filed in the Supreme Court for the State of Kentucky, Kimberly Hanik was an assistant store manager at Christopher & Banks clothing store in Kentucky. The store was located the Summit shopping center in Louisville. The shopping center is designed in the shape of “U” with a parking lot in the middle and the stores on the outside. There is also a rear parking lot. The store has doors that open to both lots.
While walking to her car parked in the back lot, Hanik slipped on black ice and fell, injuring her shoulder. She promptly reported the accident to the store manager. The manager, Patricia Spence, and the company both concluded that the accident happened in the employee parking lot.
About a month after the accident, Hanik’s workers’ compensation claim was denied because her employer claimed that the accident did not happen on store property. According to testimony, there were parking spots designated for employees in the front lot. However, due to extra customers during the Christmas shopping season, Summit management sent a memo to all businesses asking that they instruct employees to park in the back lot. Hanik testified that, when she was hired, her manager told her to always park in the back lot. Other employees testified that they were also told to park in the back lot but that parking for employees had never been enforced. One employee stated that she always parked in the front lot when working at night so she didn’t have to walk in the back lot alone.
The company had other employees testify who said that they were never instructed where to park and, while some parked in the back lot, it was only to prevent damage to their car doors, and not because the company had instructed them on where to park. The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) presiding over the appeal of Hanik’s workers’ compensation claim denial ruled that the rear lot was not on the company’s premises. The ALJ cited the case of K-Mart Discount Stores v. Schroeder. In K-Mart Discount Stores, the court examined the employer’s operating premises doctrine.
This decision was appealed to the review board, which found that the back parking lot was, in fact, under the control of the company for the purpose of workers’ compensation eligibility. On appeal, the court held that unless there are special circumstances, employees are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an injury that occurs outside of the employer’s premises. Citing K-Mart Discount Stores, the court noted the question of whether the accident occurred on employer property turns on whether the employer controls the area, and whether the injury occurred within the area controlled by the employer.
The Hanik court ultimately concluded that the parking lot was not under the control of the employer and therefore affirmed the ALJ’s ruling. This is an implementation of the “coming and going” rule which establishes that employees are generally not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries that occur on the way to work and on the way home from work.
However, one of the judges did not agree with the majority opinion and filed his own dissenting opinion in which he asserted that the back lot was a definitely an employee parking lot. He noted that it would be extremely inconvenient for customers to park in the back lot.
The fact that Hanik is not eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits does not mean that she is out of options. She would instead have to bring a civil lawsuit against the development company and possibly her employer.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Hanik v. Christopher & Banks, June 19, 2014, Supreme Court for the State of Kentucky
More Blog Entries:
Williams v. Petromark – Worker Challenges Coming-and-Going Rule, June 20, 2014, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog