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Portner & Shure’s workers compensation department recently tallied a big win in a hotly contested case relating to the premises exception to the coming and going rule. The case involved a worker who was struck by an automobile in her employer’s front parking lot while walking to work in the early morning, sustaining serious injuries to her head and knee. The employer denied the worker’s claim, arguing that it was denied by the coming and going rule.
The general rule in workers compensation law is that injuries sustained while coming and going to and from work are not compensable. The rationale behind this rule is that the risks workers are exposed to while traveling to and from work do not arise out of and in the course of employment, as these risks are borne by the general public daily. This general rule, however, is not without exception.
The “premises exception” to the going and coming rule provides that an injury sustained by a worker who has arrived on her employer’s premises, but has not yet begun her shift, is compensable. Maryland courts have held that the parking lot of an employer’s business constitutes “premises” for purposes of this rule.
At the hearing, the employer argued that the worker’s case was not covered by the premises exception because the worker was walking through the public parking lot in the front of the store, as opposed to the back parking lot designated for employees. A witness for the employer testified that employees were not permitted to park in the front lot without special permission. A witness for the worker testified workers customarily parked in the front lot.
Portner & Shure’s attorney, Christina Ruhl, argued that the case of May Dept. v. Harryman, 307 Md. 692 (1986) should apply and that the worker’s injury should be compensable. In the May case, the court held that the premises exception applied to a parking lot regularly used by employees of a shopping center, as well as the general public, even if the parking lot was not controlled by the employer. The Workers Compensation Commission held that the premises exception applied according to the May case, because the lot was customarily used by the employees of the employer, and was at times used with the owner’s special permission. The Commission awarded the worker temporary total disability benefits and authorized continuing medical treatment.
If you or someone you loved as sustained a Maryland work injury, or would like more information on workers compensation, please call us at (410) 995-1515 for a free consultation.