Court Finds Slip and Fall in Employer’s Parking Lot Compensable
Court Overrules Commission and Finds Employee’s Slip and Fall in Employer’s Parking Lot Compensable.
Mary Suiter v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and Manpower, 4-13-0049WC, 2013 Ill. App. (4th) 130049WC (Filed November 14, 2013).
Petitioner slipped and fell on ice in a parking lot as she exited her vehicle to go to work. The Commission found the case not compensable, but the Appellate Court reversed. Petitioner was hired by Manpower, a temporary employment agency, and she was assigned to work by Manpower at the Illinois Department of Insurance. Her job site was located at a building called the Bicentennial Building in Springfield, Illinois. The State of Illinois did not own the building, but instead rented it from a landlord. The employer did not provide for parking for the employees. However, the employer told petitioner that she could contact the building manager for parking. The building manager assigned petitioner a parking spot. The parking spot was in a lot owned by the landlord and not available for public parking. The landlord’s manager testified that he assigned parking spots for Manpower employees because he knew they did not earn a lot of money.
After a hearing before the arbitrator, the arbitrator denied the case based on her finding that neither Manpower nor the State of Illinois provided petitioner a parking space. The arbitrator found that the building manager was not an agent of the employer. The arbitrator found that the building manager provided petitioner a parking space as a voluntary act of human kindness.
Petitioner appealed to the Commission and the Commission affirmed the denial. Petitioner appealed to the Circuit Court and the Circuit Court also denied the case.
Petitioner appealed to the Appellate Court and the Appellate Court in a unanimous decision reversed the Commission. The court stated that traveling back and forth to work is generally not compensable. However, the court pointed out the “parking lot” exception. Under that rule of law, the court stated “Court’s have allowed recovery where the employee is injured in a parking lot provided by and under the control of the employer. This exception applies in circumstances where the employee’s injury is caused by some hazardous condition in the parking lot.” The court ruled that the parking lot exception applies so long as an employer has provided a parking lot for use by its employees whether or not it owns the lot.
The court found that petitioner’s parking spot was attributed to the employer because petitioner’s supervisor told her to contact the landlord’s building manager if she wanted parking. Since the building manager provided petitioner parking, the court found “The evidence established that the claimant’s ability to use the parking the non-public parking lot is derived from her status as an employee of the state.”
After finding that petitioner’s accident occurred in the course of her employment, the court further found that petitioner’s accident arose out of her employment since she slipped and fell on ice on an employer’s parking lot.
Comment: This case is a true disappointment for employers. It demonstrates a willingness by the Appellate Court to reverse a well reasoned Commission decision without significant justifiable basis. This employer had nothing to do with petitioner being assigned a parking spot. The arbitrator was clearly correct. The arbitrator found that the building manager provided petitioner with a parking spot as a voluntary act. This simply was not the act of the employer. The employer did not provide parking to petitioner. If anything, the liability in this case should be on the building owner and not the employer. This case as others demonstrates a strong willingness by the current Workers’ Compensation Division of the Appellate Court to completely reverse favorable Commission decisions.