Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Decision on Reasonable Contest

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's recent opinion in Thompson v. WCAB (Cinema Center), No. 621 C.D. 2009 (August 14, 2009) debated the issue of reasonable contest.

In Thompson, the injured employee was walking to work when she hit a “lip” in the parking lot where the concrete and asphalt meet and she fell onto her side.

The employer denied the workers' compensation claim, contesting that the employee did not fall on the employer's premises. The employee argued that the employer's contest was unreasonable.

A representative of the employer testified that they own the building but does not own the sidewalk or parking lot. Instead the owner of the entire strip mall owns that property and the employer pays a fee for use and maintenance of “common areas,” which include the sidewalk and parking lot.

The Workers' Compensation Judge found the employee was injured on the employer's premises, but denied the claim for unreasonable contest.

The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the decision of the workers' compensation judge.

In concluding that a reasonable contest did exist, the Court remarked that

"the mere fact that the employer leases or even owns a parking lot or garage where the employee was injured is not dispositive of the question of whether a parking area is part of the employer’s 'premises.' Such a determination requires an examination of many other facts, such as the employer’s requirements on parking. Here, the Employer did not own the sidewalk or parking lot but, rather, paid a Landlord a fee for maintenance and the non-exclusive right to use those areas. However, Employer did not mandate where employees should park and the entire parking lot was open for use by members of the public. Although Employer did not prevail, the record shows that there was a genuinely disputed issue as to whether the area where Claimant fell was Employer’s “premises” for purposes of the Act."

Read the entire opinion here.

- Quatrini Rafferty -

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