Facts surrounding fall demonstrate reasonable employer contest of claim
Thompson v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Cinema Center), No. 621 C.D. 2009 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 09/24/09).
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board's conclusion that the employer's contest of circumstances surrounding an employee's accident was reasonable.
What it means: The mere fact that an employer leases or even owns a parking lot or garage where the employee was injured does not determine whether a parking area is part of the employer's "premises." Such a determination requires an examination of many other facts, such as the employer's requirements on parking.
Summary: The employee was an usher/ticket taker at a movie theater in a strip mall. The owner of the strip mall owned the sidewalk and parking lot adjacent to the theater. The movie theater's lease with the owner provided the theater and its employees, agents and customers with the right to use the sidewalk and parking lot. The usher fell and injured her shoulder when she lost her footing on an uneven area of the parking lot while walking from the theater to her car. The theater argued that its use of the common areas was not exclusive and that it had no control over where its employees parked. Therefore, it argued, the accident did not occur on its premises. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court found there was a genuine dispute over whether the area where the claimant fell was the employer's "premises." According to the court, these facts could support a conclusion that the accident did not occur on its premises.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court agreed that the employee's claim petition should be granted. However, it also agreed that the employer's contest of the petition was reasonable because there were factual questions regarding whether the area was the employer's premises, and therefore, whether she was in the scope of her employment.
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October 26, 2009
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