The Illinois Appellate Court for the Fourth District recently held that the “parking lot” exception may apply in cases where a temporary employee is injured in an assigned parking spot on her way to work.  (Suter v. Ill. Workers Compensation Comm’n, 2013 IL App (4th) 130049WC).  In this case, the petitioner, Mary Suter, sustained an arm fracture when she slipped and fell on ice as she exited her parked car on her way to work.  Ms. Suter was a temporary employee, working for the Manpower agency, and assigned to the Illinois Department of Insurance.  She was instructed to park in a spot that was designated for employees of the Illinois Department of Insurance.  Of note is that this parking space was not available for use by the general public.  The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and Circuit court both found that although there was no dispute of fact, her injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment.  The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the decision of the lower courts, finding in favor of the petitioner.

What does this mean for petitioners in an Illinois Worker’s compensation case, and what facts are necessary to trigger the “parking lot” exception?

Parking lot is provided by and under the control of the employer.

First, it is important to understand the basis for the lower courts’ findings.  In general, Illinois workers are not compensated for injuries that occur off premises as they travel to and from work.  However, the Appellate Court in the Suter case noted that a “parking lot” exception applies when the injury occurred in a parking lot provided by the employer.

Employee’s injury is caused by a hazardous condition within the parking lot.

In the Suter case, the hazardous condition was an icy surface that was presumably not maintained by the employer.  Barring third-party negligence (a fender bender in the parking lot, for example), there is a valid argument that any hazardous condition on an employer-controlled parking lot could trigger the “parking lot” exception.

Employee’s assigned parking space was not available to the general public.

The decision in Suter made explicit mention of this last fact, suggesting that in the event that a temporary employee is assigned a space that is not open for public use, the parking lot exception may still allow for recovery.

What this means for petitioners, in general, is that the Suter court has made positive advances in recognizing the recovery rights of temporary employees.  As a practical matter, the current state of unemployment and underemployment suggest that the number of temporary workers for agencies such as Manpower, is likely to increase.  It is ever more important to understand the rights of temporary employees as they relate to the Worker’s Compensation Act of Illinois.  Suter is a positive step in that direction.

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The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.