In a recent case, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court found that Harrah’s Casino was obligated to pay workers’ compensation benefits to a worker injured, Ms. Burdette, when her car was hit while leaving the parking garage of the casino immediately after her shift. Interestingly only approximately 12 inches of the car was still in the garage when the accident occurred. The majority of the vehicle had already entered a public street when the accident occurred. Security cameras on the scene confirmed that right before impact a small portion of the rear of Ms. Burdette’s vehicle was still in the casino parking lot.
The Casino’s position was that Ms. Burdette had already left the place of her employment when the accident happened and that she was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Their denial was based on their position that the employee had left the premises and was no longer in an area controlled by the Casino. The workers’ compensation Judge assigned to the case visited the scene and viewed surveillance video tapes before issuing a decision stating that the worker was entitled to benefits because she was still in the area controlled by the casino.
It is the “control” by the employer that caused the Appellate Court to agree with, and ratify the decision of the workers compensation Judge. The court said that the workers’ compensation act must be liberally construed in favor of coverage for injured workers. The court also stated the following:
The circumstances of the present case plainly reveal that Burdette never fully left her employer’s premises. Although her vehicle was in the midst of navigating a left turn onto a public thoroughfare, the exact spot where Burdette suffered injuries was neither remote from, nor unconnected to, her work premises. We reject Harrah’s ultra-rigid approach that focuses only on the colliding vehicles’ point of impact and the front seat location of Burdette in her Explorer.
The Court instead relied on a common sense approach and agreed with the workers’ compensation Judge who found that Ms. Burdette had not yet left the premises under the control of her employer when she was injured. Common sense and liberal interpretation of the law to cover as many injured workers as possible is a theme running throughout workers’ compensation case law. It is gratifying to see the Court use common sense in this case to reach the “right” decision.