Appellant-plaintiff Judith Clemans ("Clemans") appeals from the denial by the Worker's Compensation Board ("the Board") of her claim under the Worker's Compensation Act ("the Act"),
Clemans presents a single restated issue for our review: whether the Board erred in concluding that she did not sustain an injury arising out of and in the course of her employment with Wishard.
2 and Procedural History 3
Clemans was a laboratory technician for Wishard and worked on the main level of Wishard's Regenstrief Building. She parked her car in an employee parking lot provided by Wishard known as the West Lot. Wilson Street, a public thoroughfare neither owned nor controlled by Wishard, runs between the Regenstrief Building and the West Lot. There are two paths that Wishard employees can take to access the West Lot from the Regenstrief Building: they can either exit the Regenstrief Building through its main level doors and cross Wilson Street directly; or they can go to the lower level of the Regenstrief Building, enter a tunnel that crosses beneath Wilson Street, exit the tunnel into an adjacent physician's parking lot, and from there walk to the West Lot. Wishard employees are not encouraged or required to use the tunnel to reach the West Lot, and means of access to the West Lot is left to the employee's discretion.
On the afternoon of April 9, 1998, Clemans completed her duties at Wishard, exited the Regenstrief Building on the main level, and began walking toward the West Lot. She was crossing Wilson Street outside the boundaries of its marked pedestrian crosswalk when she was struck by a car and injured.
1. It is ... found that the factual matters herein are not in dispute, the same having been stipulated to by the parties.
2. It is further found that based on such stipulated facts, the undersigned does conclude that the plaintiff did not suffer an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of her employment. This conclusion is based on the fact that the plaintiff was not on the premises of the defendant but in fact was on a public street not owned, controlled, or maintained by the defendant.
3. It is further found that the plaintiff was exposed to no special hazard greater than the public at large by the use of the public street and an alternate means of accessing the defendant's parking lot by way of a covered tunnel was available.
4. It is further found, therefore, that plaintiff shall take nothing by her application filed herein.
The full Board summarily affirmed the decision of the single hearing member on September 17, 1999, with four members of the Board concurring and three members dissenting.
Discussion and Decision
The Act provides compensation for employees who suffer injuries that occur "by accident arising out of and in the course of their employment." IND.CODE § 22-3-2-5. The determination of whether an injury arises out of and in the course of employment is fact-sensitive and depends upon the circumstances of each case. Construction Management and Design, Inc. v. Vanderweele, 660 N.E.2d 1046, 1049 (Ind.Ct.App.1996), trans. denied. However, if the facts pertinent to the question of liability are not in dispute, as here, the question becomes one of law for the courts to decide. Id. When reviewing a decision of the full Board, this court is not bound by the Board's interpretation of the law, and we will reverse a decision if the Board incorrectly interprets the Act. Duvall v. ICI Americas, Inc., 621 N.E.2d 1122, 1124 (Ind.Ct.App.1993). Nevertheless, we will pay due deference to the interpretation of a statute by the administrative agency charged with its enforcement in light of its expertise in its given area. Ballard v. Book Heating & Cooling, Inc., 696 N.E.2d 55, 56 (Ind.Ct.App.1998), trans. denied.
Our analysis in this case proceeds from the well-settled precept that the Act, being remedial in nature, should be liberally construed to accomplish the purpose for which it was enacted; consequently, it should be liberally construed in favor of employees and beneficiaries. See Goldstone v. Kozma, 149 Ind.App. 626, 631-32, 274 N.E.2d 304, 307 (1971). It is also well recognized that the words "arising out of" and "in the course of employment" as they are used in the Act should be liberally construed to accomplish the humane purposes of the Act. Id., 149 Ind.App. at 632, 274 N.E.2d at 308. "Arising out of" and "in the course of" are two separate and distinct elements: the "in the course of" element refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the accident, while the "arising out of" element refers to the causal connection between the accident and the employment. K-Mart Corp. v. Novak, 521 N.E.2d 1346, 1348 (Ind.Ct.App. 1988). Specifically,
Wishard relies heavily on the proposition that merely traveling to or from work is not considered to be within the scope of employment; thus, without more, accidents that occur during these periods are not recoverable under the Act. See Segally v. Ancerys, 486 N.E.2d 578, 581 (Ind.Ct.App.1985). However, a public policy exception to this rule has been expressly created by our courts to extend coverage of the Act to those accidents resulting from employees' ingress to or egress from their employer's operating premises or extensions thereof. Id. For instance, this court has held that employer-controlled parking lots and private drives used by employees are extensions of the employer's operating premises for purposes of coverage under the Act. See Lawhead v. Brown, 653 N.E.2d 527, 529 (Ind.Ct.App. 1995) (parking lot); United States Steel Corp. v. Brown, 142 Ind.App. 18, 22, 231 N.E.2d 839, 842 (1967) (private drive).
In keeping with these principles, we conclude as a matter of law that the injuries Clemans sustained as she was crossing Wilson Street arose out of and in the course of her employment with Wishard such that she is entitled to recovery under the Act. In particular, the injuries she sustained in that accident resulted from her egress from Wishard's operating premises and are therefore compensable.
In so holding, we turn to the court's well-reasoned opinion in Reed, which involved a private driveway that ran through the employer's property and crossed a set of railroad tracks owned and maintained by the railroad company. The property was subject to the operating easement of this railroad company, but the land and private driveway on both sides of the tracks was owned by the employer. There were two means of access to the building where the employee worked: one where no flasher signals were posted at the point where the private driveway crossed the tracks, and one where flasher signals were posted. The employee was driving to work using the private driveway without flasher signals when he was struck and killed by an oncoming train. In concluding that the accident on the railroad tracks arose out of and in the course of the employee's employment, the Reed court held:
Id., 129 Ind.App. at 84-90, 152 N.E.2d at 260-63 (citations omitted, emphasis added).
We see no distinction between the railroad tracks at issue in Reed and the public thoroughfare at issue in the instant case. Wilson Street separated Wishard's premises into two sections: the Regenstrief Building where Clemans worked and the West Lot where she parked her car. Both the Regenstrief Building and the West Lot were owned and exclusively maintained by Wishard. In order to access the West Lot upon completing her daily duties in the Regenstrief Building, Clemans had the right to cross Wilson Street, at her election.
Moreover, Clemans crossed Wilson Street only moments after completing her duties at Wishard and was within close proximity to both the Regenstrief Building and the West Lot at the time she was struck and injured. "[I]f the injury occurred fifteen minutes before or after working hours and within one hundred feet of the employer's premises, on sidewalks or public roads, the question of `in the course of' the employment is flatly raised." See Reed, 129 Ind.App. at 83, 152 N.E.2d at 260 (citation omitted, emphasis added). Therefore, Clemans' injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment with Wishard.
Wishard, nevertheless, urges this court to draw the line of an employer's liability at the public thoroughfare. In essence, it asks us to create a zone of temporal and spatial immunity while Clemans crossed from one portion of Wishard's premises to the other. Under this scenario, Clemans would have been entitled to compensation under the Act only if she had made it across Wilson Street and then been injured
The undisputed evidence reflects that Clemans was not injured on just any public street, but on a street which all parties undoubtedly contemplated she would cross in order to access the employee parking lot. Wilson Street separated the Regenstrief Building from the West Lot and was, for these purposes, a part of Wishard's operating premises. See Reed, 129 Ind. App. at 89, 152 N.E.2d at 262. This conclusion is further consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's observations in Bountiful Brick Co. v. Giles, 276 U.S. 154, 155, 48 S.Ct. 221, 222, 72 L.Ed. 507 (1928):
(Citations omitted, emphasis added); see also Goldstone, 149 Ind.App. at 637, 274 N.E.2d at 311 (holding that employee injured in parking lot presumably owned and maintained by office building owner and not by employer who leased space in the office building was entitled to compensation; "a liberal construction of the employers' premises in this case could ... include the parking area used by appellants' employees for parking and as ingress and egress to and from the place of employment. The fact that the employer may not have owned the premises or that the proof of ownership was absent is not fatal to the employee's claim. This point was made very clearly in the case of Reed v. Brown, supra." (Emphasis added)). Given the facts of this case, we decline to draw the line of liability at Wilson Street.
Additionally, we note that the presence of an alternative and clearly less convenient route to the parking lot is not dispositive of Clemans' position on appeal. Wishard stipulated that it neither encouraged nor discouraged Clemans from using the tunnel. When left to the employee's discretion, the most reasonable inference would have been that Clemans, and all similarly situated employees, would choose the more convenient route, namely, exiting the Regenstrief Building on the main level and crossing Wilson Street directly. In discounting the impact of an alternative route on the employer's liability in Reed, the court observed:
Reed, 129 Ind.App. at 88-89, 152 N.E.2d at 262-63 (emphasis added). Likewise, Clemans' election to cross Wilson Street directly instead of using the tunnel had the same legal effect and consequences as if she had been required to do so by Wishard.
Finally, Wishard relies heavily on Donahue v. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 474 N.E.2d 1013 (Ind.1985), which we find to be clearly distinguishable from the instant case. In Donahue, the employee had completed her duties and clocked out, left her employer's operating premises, and was crossing a public street to access her car which she had parked on the street when she was struck by another vehicle. The employer had not directed the employee to park her car on the public street, but rather, had provided an employee parking lot located on the same side of the street as the operating premises. Our supreme court affirmed the Board's denial of compensation under the Act and referenced the cases of Reed, 129 Ind.App. at 85-90, 152 N.E.2d at 261-63; Goldstone, 149 Ind. App. at 637, 274 N.E.2d at 311; and Brown, 142 Ind.App. at 22, 231 N.E.2d at 842, noting that "[c]ases allowing recovery for injuries incurred while away from the employer's premises involved employees engaged in activities which are found to be, in some material respect, incidental to employment or beneficial to the employer." Donahue, 474 N.E.2d at 1016.
The employer in Donahue could not have reasonably contemplated a need for an employee to cross a public street, where it provided an employee parking lot on the same side of the street as its operating premises. In essence, the employee in Donahue had no reason related to her employment to cross the public street, and when she did so, the act was not incidental in any way to her duties with the employer. Here, on the other hand, it is undisputed that Wishard provided its employees with a parking lot used exclusively by employees and located directly across the street from the Regenstrief Building. This undisputed evidence leads inescapably to the conclusion that Wishard contemplated Clemans would cross Wilson Street to gain access to that parking lot and the car in which she drove to work. As such, Clemans' act of crossing Wilson Street from the Regenstrief Building to the West Lot immediately after completing her duties was materially incidental to her employment. See id.
Moreover, while the employee in Donahue was injured "on a public thoroughfare and the hazards and dangers of her accident were common to all persons using that public way," see id., Clemans did not cross Wilson Street as a member of the general public but did so for the sole purpose of egressing from her place of employment. Absent her employment with Wishard, she presumably would not have
In sum, we conclude as a matter of law that Clemans was entitled to compensation under the Act for the injuries she sustained while crossing Wilson Street. Those injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment with Wishard, and the Board erred in concluding otherwise.
NAJAM, J., and ROBB, J., concur.