Workers’ Compensation Coverage Not Available for Slip and Fall in Employer Owned Parking Lot

The Oregon Court of Appeals recently revisited the question of when an employee’s injury “arises out of employment” such that workers’ compensation coverage is allowed.   Generally, “A ‘compensable injury’ is an accidental injury… arising out of and in the course of employment requiring medical services or resulting in disability or death.” ORS 656.005(7)(a).  In Legacy Health Systems v. Noble, the employee suffered an injury when, during a paid break, she slipped and broke her ankle in a parking lot owned by her employer while walking from her office to a credit union to deposit a personal check.  The employee’s errand, and her decision to cut across the employer’s parking lot, was purely personal. 

The employer objected to coverage on the grounds that the injury did not arise out of, or in the course of, the employee’s employment.  Initially, the Workers’ Compensation Board (the “Board”) held for the employee and, on appeal, the Court of Appeals found that the injury occurred “in the course of” the employee’s employment.  However, the Court remanded the case for the Board to determine whether the injury also  “arose out of” the employee’s employment.  The Board concluded it did, and the employer appealed again.  In response to the employer’s second appeal, the Court of Appeals found that the employee’s injury did not arise out of her employment.

The Court explained that a worker’s injury is deemed to arise out of employment if “the risk of the injury results from the nature of his or her work or when it originates from some risk to which the work environment exposes the worker.”  Based on the facts in Noble, the Court concluded that: “Nothing in the nature of the employee’s work as a patient-care coordinator, whose work activities were confined to the hospital, bore any causal connection to suffering an ankle injury while walking across a slippery parking lot to deposit a personal check.  Nor did claimant’s ‘work environment’ expose claimant to a risk of the injury that she suffered.”  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that the injury did not arise out of the employee’s employment.  

In addition to providing an interesting fact scenario in which to analyze a work place injury and coverage therefor, Noble is interesting because the employer had to appeal twice, and spend four years in litigation to obtain a definitive ruling on whether the employee suffered a compensable injury.

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