When is an injury sustained in an employer-controlled parking lot NOT compensable?

Evenson, Andrew_167x222As a general rule, injuries sustained by employees when going to and coming from their regular workplace are not deemed to arise out of and in the course of their employment. SAIF v. Reel, 303 Or 210, 216 (1987). One exception is the “parking lot rule.” This rule states that if an injury occurs in a parking lot or other off-premises area over which the employer has some control, the injury may be compensable. Boyd v. SAIF, 115 Or App 241, 243 (1992).

The Oregon Supreme Court held in Norpac Foods v. Gilmore, 318 Or 363 (1994), an injury occurring in an employer’s parking lot is not necessarily compensable, as is often the knee-jerk reaction. It explained that the parking lot rule establishes only that the time, place, and circumstances of the injury are sufficiently work-related to satisfy the threshold “in the course of employment” element. However, to establish a compensable injury, a worker must also prove that the injury “arose out of” his employment. That is, he must also show a sufficient causal connection between his employment and the injury to establish compensability.

In a “parking lot” case, that causal connection exists when the worker’s injury was brought about by a condition or hazard associated with premises over which the employer exercises some control. For example, the Board has found the following injuries compensable in the past: 1. A slip and fall on icy pavement on the employer’s premises – Linda N. Kief, 46 Van Natta 2290 (1994); 2. A motorcycle accident caused by gravel displaced from a large pothole on the employer’s premises – Christopher C. Ciongoli, 46 Van Natta 1906 (1994); and 3. A trip and fall on rough pavement on an employer-controlled driveway – Ronald R. Nelson, 46 Van Natta 1094 (1994). On the other hand, in William F. Gilmore, 46 Van Natta 999 (1994), the Board determined an injury sustained while the worker entered his vehicle on employer’s parking lot was not compensable because it did not arise from risk associated with the parking lot. In other words, to establish a compensable injury under the “parking lot rule,” a worker must prove that his employment conditions, i.e., conditions of the employer-controlled parking lot, put him in a position or at risk to be injured.

The bottom line is, do not simply assume an injury sustained within an employer-controlled parking lot is compensable, as is often the gut reaction. A compensability determination in this instance is extremely fact-specific and some due diligence and investigation is often warranted. Consider not only where the injury occurred, but how, when, and why it occurred. Remember, there must be some causal connection between the injury and the worker’s employment to establish a work-related risk.

If you have any questions related to the “parking lot rule” or any other Oregon workers’ compensation matters, please contact me at aevenson@sbhlegal.com.