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A Lot's Not Covered
by Ron Davis
A woman’s injury that occurred while she hurried to work at a Virginia shopping center was nobody’s fault but her own. So ruled a Virginia court in a recent worker’s compensation case.
The woman worked for a supermarket that is an anchor tenant at the Alexandria shopping center. Her injury resulted from a fall she sustained in the shopping center parking lot.
Supermarket employees at that shopping center do not have a designated place to park in the center’s lot and may park anywhere there. The lot itself is separated from the stores in the center by traffic lanes that allow cars access to the entire shopping center. A storm drain surrounded by concrete is embedded in the asphalt of the parking lot at the edge of the traffic lanes.
On the day of her injury, the supermarket employee parked her car in the parking lot and walked toward the supermarket entrance to begin her shift. As she neared the store, rain began falling and she quickened her pace, finally breaking into a run. As she started to cross the traffic lane in front of the supermarket, she tripped on gravel surrounding the storm drainage grate and injured her knee. She subsequently filed for worker’s compensation, contending that the injury was work-related because it occurred on property that was an “extended premises” of her employer.
She was denied benefits, however, on grounds that her injury occurred in an area that is available to customers as well as employees of the tenants of the shopping center and thus could not reasonably be considered an extension of her employer’s premises.
She appealed that decision, arguing that the parking lot was indeed part of the employer’s premises under worker’s compensation rules and regulations.
A Virginia appellate court upheld the denial of benefits to the injured woman. Explained the judges, “Only by specifically designating an area ‘employee parking’ and requiring its employees to park there is an employer making that area part of its ‘extended premises’ through its control of the use of that area by its employees. In this case, employees are allowed, but not required to park in the lot. The general public uses the lot, and it is neither controlled nor maintained by the employer.” (Cleveland v. Food Lion, LLC, 2004 WL 1725389 [Va.App.])
Decision: August 2004
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