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ALICE M. BROWN v. WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (05/25/84)

decided: May 25, 1984.

ALICE M. BROWN, APPELLEE
v.
WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD, (TRANSWORLD AIRLINES). APPEAL OF TRANSWORLD AIRLINES



No. 48 W.D. Appeal Dkt. 1983, Appeal from the Final Order of the Commonwealth Court entered on January 17, 1983, at No. 3105, C.D. 1980, Reversing and Remanding the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, No. A-78516, Affirming the Denial of Workers' Compensation Benefits, 71 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 220, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Hutchinson

[ 505 Pa. Page 37]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This Court granted appellant Transworld Airlines' petition for allowance of appeal to resolve a mixed question of law and fact, viz. whether an injury occurring to an employee in the first floor lobby of a multi-purpose complex, the only appropriate building exit at the time her duties ended, is an injury occurring on the employer's premises, as that term is defined in Section 301(c) of the Workmen's Compensation Law, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, § 301(c), as amended, 77 P.S. § 411(1) (Supp.1983-84). The Workmen's Compensation Referee and the Appeal Board both found that appellee Alice M. Brown's injuries had occurred in an area where she was not required to be by reason of her employment and, therefore, the public area of the Chatham Center lobby could not be held to be included in her employer's premises. Commonwealth Court, 71 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 220, 454 A.2d 1163, reversed, holding that since the means of appellee's egress was a reasonable and necessary one, the injury occurred on the "premises" of the employer, as that term is used in Section 301(c)(1) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 411(1) (Supp.1983-84), and appellee's injuries are therefore compensable. For the reasons which follow, we now affirm the judgment of Commonwealth Court.

At the time of her injury appellee was employed as a reservationist by appellant. She was working the three p.m. till midnight shift in appellant's leased offices on the third floor of Chatham Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Chatham Center is a multi-purpose commercial building housing offices, apartments, a hotel, restaurant, snack shop and a parking facility.

On December 18, 1978, appellee left her employer's offices shortly after midnight and took the elevator to the first floor lobby. On reaching the first floor she proceeded

[ 505 Pa. Page 38]

    to cross the lobby headed for the Fifth Avenue exit, which was the only pedestrian way out of the building at that time of night. In doing so, she slipped on the freshly waxed floor and received injuries from which she continues to suffer pain. As a result of her injuries from this fall, she filed a claim for disability compensation with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workmen's Compensation on May 14, 1979.

Although there was no evidence suggesting that appellee had any appropriate alternative means of egress available to her,*fn1 the Referee and the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board both held that the area of the fall "was not in the ingress and egress area . . . . It was not used as a part of [appellee's] business operations . . . . It was not an area where claimant was required to be because of her employment." R.R. 27a. When the fact finder's decision is against the party having the burden of proof, the scope of appellate review is severely limited, partly in deference to the agency's expertise in a specialized field. It is, nonetheless, necessary that the decision be in accordance with the law. Jasper v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 498 Pa. 263, 445 A.2d 1212 (1982). In this case, however, uncontradicted and apparently incontrovertible*fn2 testimony establishes that appellee's route from the elevator to the building exit was the only available pedestrian route. Thus, the Referee appears to have capriciously disregarded*fn3 otherwise

[ 505 Pa. Page 39]

    trustworthy evidence in finding the lobby was not in the ingress and egress area. Thereafter, in inferring that such an area was not one in which claimant's employment required her to be, the compensation authorities failed to conform to the current standard of case and statutory law. Section 301(c) provides in pertinent part:

(1) The terms " injury " and " personal injury," as used in this act, shall be construed to mean an injury to an employe, regardless of his previous physical condition, arising in the course of his employment and related thereto, and such disease or infection as naturally results from the injury or is aggravated, reactivated or accelerated by the injury; . . . . The term "injury arising in the course of his employment," as used in this article, shall not include an injury caused by an act of a third person intended to injure the employe because of reasons personal to him, and not directed against him as an employe or because of his employment; but shall include all other injuries sustained while the employe is actually engaged in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer, whether upon the employer's premises or elsewhere, and shall not include all injuries caused by the condition of the premises or by the operation of the employer's business or affairs thereon, sustained by the employe, who, though not so engaged, is injured upon the premises occupied by or under the control of the employer, or upon which the employer's business or affairs are being carried on, the employe's presence thereon being required by the nature of his employment.

77 P.S. § 411(1) (Supp.1983-84) (emphasis added). Our cases have for many years defined the employer's premises to include public or common areas used in the conduct of the employer's affairs, so long as the employe's presence thereon was required by the nature of his ...


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