Tenant's Control of Parking Lot Makes Accident Work-Related
What Happened: A 70-year-old supermarket employee who just finished her shift stepped into a pothole while walking to her car. The workers comp board rejected her claim for benefits. Citing provisions in the supermarket’s lease making the landlord responsible for maintaining the shopping center parking lot and other common areas, the board concluded that the employer/supermarket didn’t control the parking lot where the injuries occurred. The employee appealed.
Ruling: The New Jersey state court reversed the board’s ruling.
Reasoning: In New Jersey, as in many other states, employment for purposes of workers comp coverage begins when employees arrive at “the place of employment” and ends when they leave it. Under the so-called premises rule, “place of employment” is interpreted as including not just the immediate workplace but also adjacent areas under the employer’s control. While acknowledging that the landlord was responsible for maintaining the parking lot under the lease, the court noted that the supermarket also paid CAM charges toward that maintenance. More significantly, the supermarket exerted a degree of control by using the area for “multiple business purposes,” including not just customer and employee parking but also deliveries, storing shopping carts, and as an area for employees to smoke.
- Walker v. Saker Shop-Rite, 2021 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2078, 2021 WL 4058011