June 04, 2011 BY John Adkisson
Who Owns The Parking Lot? – Ingress And Egress In Workers' Compensation Cases
The general rule is that an injury that occurs when an employee is traveling to or from work is not compensable because the injury does not arise out of or in the course of employment. Mayor & Aldermen of Savannah v. Stevens, 278 Ga. App. 166, 598 S.E.2d 166 (2004). However, it is also well established that an injury that occurs during a reasonable period of ingress or egress on the employer’s premises is compensable.Peoples v. Emory University, 206 Ga. App. 213, 424 S.E.2d 874 (1993). This article addresses the question of whether an injury is compensable when an employee is injured during ingress or egress from the parking lot by examining several different factual scenarios.
The answer to the “parking lot” question turns on whether the injury occurs in a parking lot that is owned, maintained, or controlled by the employer. If the parking lot is owned, maintained or controlled by the employer, the injury is generally compensable. See Crawford v. Meyer, 195 Ga. App. 867, 396 S.E.2d 327 (1990). On the other hand, an injury is not compensable if the parking lot is not owned, maintained, or controlled by the employer.
Parking Lots Owned, Maintained, or Controlled
In Department of Human Resources v. Jankowski, 147 Ga. App. 441, 249 S.E.2d 124 (1978), the Court of Appeals liberally interpreted what constitutes the “employer’s premises.” Jankowski worked for the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and was injured when she fell in a parking lot operated by the Georgia Building Authority. Even though the Department of Human Resources and the Georgia Building Authority are separate entities, the Court found that Jankowski was on her employer’s premises when she was injured because the parking lot was the property of the State of Georgia. Essentially, the Court found that the injury was compensable because the employer and owner of the parking lot were both the State of Georgia. Therefore, the Court found that the employer (State of Georgia) owned, maintained, and controlled the parking lot.
The employee and her husband in Longuepee v. Georgia Institute of Technology, 269 Ga. App. 884, 605 S.E.2d 455 (2004) attempted to bring a tort claim against her employer (Georgia Tech) after she was struck by a vehicle that was owned and operated by Georgia Tech while crossing a public street. Longuepee was heading directly to the building where she worked after leaving a parking lot owned by Georgia Tech when she was injured. Georgia Tech filed a motion for summary judgment based on the exclusive remedy provision of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act. The Court of Appeals held that the injury arose out of and in the course of Longuepee’s employment because the parking lot was owned by the employer. It did not matter that the parking lot was not adjacent to building where Longuepee working or that she was hit on a public street. Instead, the deciding factor was that Longuepee was heading directly from the employer owned parking lot to the building where she worked. Therefore, the tort claim was barred by the exclusive remedy provision.
Parking Lots Not Owned, Maintained, or Controlled
The basis for injuries sustained in parking lots that are not owned, maintained, or controlled by the employer being held not compensable is the general rule that injuries sustained going to or coming from work are not compensable. In Tate v. Bruno's, Inc./Food Max, 200 Ga. App. 395, 408 S.E.2d 456 (1991), Tate worked for a Food Max store which was located in a shopping center. The shopping center parking lot was used by both Food Max employees and customers. After finishing her shift, Tate walked to her car, which was parked in spot near the street. Upon backing out of the parking spot, Tate was injured when her car was hit by another vehicle. Employees of Food Max were told to leave spaces close to the store for customers. However, no specific spots were reserved for employees. The Court of Appeals held that the injury did not occur in the course of Tate’s employment because the parking lot was not owned, maintained, or controlled by Food Max. Instead, Tate was injured in public parking lot. Therefore, the Court held that the accident was not compensable.
The case of City of Atlanta v. Spearman, 209 Ga. App. 644, 434 S.E.2d 87 (1993) presented a similar situation to Jankowski. However, there is one important difference in the cases – Spearman worked for the City of Atlanta rather than for the State of Georgia. Spearman was allowed to park in a parking garage located about a block from her job at City Hall that was managed, operated, and controlled by the Georgia Building Authority. The City of Atlanta was provided 100 parking spots for use by its employees. Each month, the City deducted $20.00 from Spearman’s paycheck for use of the parking space. Prior to implementation of the deduction system for the benefit of Georgia Building Authority, each employee paid for his or her own parking. The Court of Appeals noted that the administrative law judge had “mistakenly equated the City’s control over the allocation of the parking spaces with control and direction over the parking lot itself.” Id. at 645. The Court held that parking lot was not owned, maintained, and controlled by the City of Atlanta. Instead, the parking lot was owned, maintained, and controlled by the State of Georgia. Therefore, the Court found the injury not compensable.
In Collie Concessions, Inc. v. Bruce, 272 Ga. App. 578, 612 S.E.2d (2005), Bruce worked as a cashier for the Collie Concessions at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Collie Concessions was allocated twenty-five parking spots on a first come, first serve basis in a parking lot across the street from the golf course during the week of the Masters. The parking lot was not owned, leased, controlled, or maintained by Collie Concessions. Instead, the parking lot was owned by an LLC of which Augusta National Golf Club was the sole member. Bruce was hit while crossing a public street in a temporary crosswalk on the way to the only entrance through which she could enter the premises of Augusta National. The Superior Court found that the temporary crosswalk was part of the employer’s premises because it “was constructed for use only during the week of the Masters and was not present during any other time of the year.” Id. at 583. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the Superior Court’s analysis, and found that the crosswalk was not owned, maintained, or controlled by Collie Concessions or Augusta National. Because the claimant was hit on public street after leaving a parking lot that was not owned, controlled, or maintained by her employer, the Court held that the accident was not compensable.
By way of illustration, the Court of Appeals has also used the “parking lot” analysis for an injury that did not occur in a parking lot. In Hill v. Omni Hotel at CNN Center, 268 Ga. App. 144, 601 S.E.2d 472 (2004), Hill was an employee of the Omni Hotel. As Hill walked through the food court/mall area of the CNN Center toward the Omni Hotel, she tripped on some rolled up carpet approximately 100 to 200 yards from the escalator that went into the Omni Hotel. By applying the “parking lot” analysis from Tate, the Court held the claim not compensable because the Omni Hotel did not own, maintain, or control the area of the CNN Center where Hill was injured.
As you will note based on the cases above, “parking lot” claims are fact specific. However, the general determination of whether a claim in compensable when applying the “parking lot” analysis rests on whether the employer owns, maintains, or controls the parking lot. It is important to note that ingress or egress across a public street does not eliminate compensability when crossing the street is necessary in order to go directly work to work from an employer owned parking lot. An employer/insurer should also remember that the parking lot rule can sometimes be used as an advantage if a claimant attempts to bring a potentially more lucrative tort claim.
The Journal is a publication for the clients of Drew Eckl & Farnham, LLP. It is written in a general format and is not intended to be legal advice to any specific circumstance. Legal Opinions may vary when based upon subtle factual differences. All rights reserved.
H. Michael Bagley