Workers’ Compensation and the “Premises Rule”

By on March 20th, 2014

Posted in Personal Injury Law Journal

A recent potential client called our office wondering why the workers’ compensation carrier for her employer had denied her claim for workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that she had already left her place of employment when she slipped and fell on ice.  She had clocked out for the day, walked out the front door of work, and was still on the walkway out to the parking lot when she fell.  She had walked about 4 steps from the front door of her place of employment when she fell.  N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 of the New Jersey Statute addresses the premises rule.  Stated simply this rule states that employment begins when an employee arrives on the premises of her employer and ends when she leaves the premises.  In other words, absent special circumstances, injuries that happen between home and the work premises are not covered under the workers’ compensation statute.

An employer’s premises is not limited to the areas owned or leased by the employer, but also to the areas under the control of the employer.  In addition, the case of Livingston v. A & S, decided by the courts in New Jersey in 1988 extended this control rule to the parking lot.  This case held that employment starts when an employee arrives at a parking lot owned, maintained, or used by the employer.  Even if the employer leases the building and the parking lot, they are still exercising control over the lot if their employees are directed to park there.

Another twist on this premises rule was addressed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in the case of Jumpp v. City of Ventnor.  This case held that a municipal employee, doing a job away from his main office, was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when he slipped and fell on a driveway when he stopped at the post office  to check his personal mail.  Interestingly if this worker had stopped for coffee, or to use the restroom when he was injured, he probably would have been entitled to worker’ compensation benefits.  The court stated that “There must be a finding that the off-premises employee is performing his or her work responsibilities at the time of the injury for the injury to be compensable.”  Therefore an employee working away from the office, who is doing an activity that would normally be done at the work place, such as eating lunch or going to the bathroom, would be covered by workers’ compensation.

In the case of the new client who recently contacted our office, we will make the argument that she was still on the premises and in an area under the control of her employer, when she slipped and fell 4 steps from the employer’s front door.

Please contact Stark & Stark for any of your workers’ compensation questions.

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