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Jackson Purchase Medical Associates v. Crossett

Supreme Court of Kentucky

August 29, 2013

JACKSON PURCHASE MEDICAL ASSOCIATES, Appellant
v.
Sarah CROSSETT; Honorable Richard M. Joiner, Administrative Law Judge; and Workers' Compensation Board, Appellees.

Rehearing Denied Nov. 21, 2013.

Page 171

Denis S. Kline, for appellant, Jackson Purchase Medical Associates.

David Craig Troutman, for appellee, Sarah Crossett.

OPINION

Appellant, Jackson Purchase Medical Associates (" JPMA" ), appeals from a decision of the Court of Appeals which held that it was liable to pay workers' compensation to Appellee, Sarah Crossett. JPMA's sole argument is that the Court of Appeals misapplied the " operating premises" exception to the " going and coming" rule to find that Crossett was within a common area of her employer when she slipped and fell. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the Court of Appeals.

JPMA leases space within the Lourdes Medical Pavilion in Paducah. The Lourdes Medical Pavilion is an office complex that houses a variety of medical offices. A breezeway connects the main building with a smaller building that houses an MRI facility. All of the buildings at the complex are bordered by sidewalks and a large parking lot. The parking lot includes 530 parking spaces, some of which are specifically marked to only be used by individuals who work at the medical complex. The lease between JPMA and the Lourdes Medical Pavilion states that maintenance of the common areas, including the sidewalks, is the landlord's responsibility.

Crossett is employed by JPMA as a billing representative. On the date of her injury, Crossett parked her car in a space designated as an " employee" space and walked along the sidewalk which ran to the main entrance of the complex. Before she reached the main entrance of the facility, which would take her to her office, Crossett slipped and fell in snow that had accumulated outside of the MRI building. Crossett injured her ankle and filed for workers' compensation. JPMA disputed her claim, arguing that the injury did not occur on its operating premises pursuant to the going and coming rule. The going and coming rule generally provides that injuries which occur while an employee is on the way to or from a worksite are not compensable. Harlan Collieries v. Shell, 239 S.W.2d 923 (Ky.1951).

Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) rendered an opinion and award finding Crossett's injury was compensable because it occurred within

Page 172

the scope of her employment. The ALJ noted that Crossett parked in a designated space and subsequently fell in a common area of the facility. On a petition for reconsideration, the ALJ made a finding that Crossett fell within the operating premises of JPMA. The Board and Court of Appeals affirmed the ALJ's ruling. This appeal followed.

I. THE ALJ'S DECISION THAT CROSSETT FELL WITHIN THE OPERATING PREMISES OF JPMA WAS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

JPMA argues that the ALJ erred by concluding that the sidewalk where Crossett fell is within its operating premises. Specifically, JPMA contends that it had no control over the clearing of ice and snow from the parking lots or sidewalks surrounding the office buildings and that the application of the operating premises exception to the going and coming rule was erroneous. Because Crossett was successful before the ALJ, the question is whether substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision. Wolf Creek Collieries v. Crum, 673 S.W.2d 735, 736 (Ky.App.1984).

In Pierson v. Lexington Public Library, 987 S.W.2d 316, 318 (Ky.1999), this Court provided the following explanation of the going and coming rule:

[w]orkers' compensation legislation was not intended to protect workers against the risks of the street. Larson, Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, ยง 15.11. As a general rule, injuries which occur while an employee is on the way to or from the worksite are not compensable. This principle is commonly known as the ‘ going and coming’ rule. Harlan Collieries v. Shell,239 S.W.2d 923 (Ky.1951). However, an employer is responsible for work-related injuries that occur on its entire ‘ operating premises' and not just at the injured worker's worksite. Ratliff v. Epling, 401 S.W.2d 43 (Ky.1966). Whether a particular area comes within an employer's operating premises depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. Hayes v. Gibson Hart Co., 789 S.W.2d 775 (Ky.1990); K-Mart Discount Stores v. Schroeder, 623 S.W.2d 900 (Ky.1981); Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital v. Taylor, 424 ...

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