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ICT Group v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board

May 26, 2010

ICT GROUP, PETITIONER
v.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD (CHURCHRAY-WOYTUNICK), RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Brobson

Submitted: March 5, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JIM FLAHERTY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

ICT Group (Employer) petitions for review of an order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board), dated October 26, 2009. The Board affirmed the order of a Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ), granting the claim petition of Elizabeth Churchray-Woytunick (Claimant) based upon the finding that Claimant was injured in the course and scope of her employment as required by Section 301(c)(1) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the Board's granting of Claimant's claim petition and remand to the WCJ for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Claimant worked for Employer as a customer service team leader at Employer's place of business located at 800 Town Center Drive, Langhorne, Pennsylvania (Workplace). The Workplace is located in an office park known as Bucks Town Corporate Campus, where Employer leases multiple buildings. While at work, Claimant parked her car in a parking lot situated between the Workplace and another building leased by Employer. Each workday, Claimant was required to take an unpaid thirty-minute lunch break at a time predetermined by Employer. Claimant was permitted to leave Employer's premises during her lunch break.

On February 16, 2007, Claimant parked her car along the sidewalk in front of the Workplace. At noon, Claimant took her lunch break and walked to her car, intending to leave Employer's premises. While attempting to enter her car, Claimant slipped on ice and fell backwards to the ground. At the time of the fall, Claimant did not believe she was seriously injured and drove her car to an ATM machine located at a nearby supermarket. When exiting her car, Claimant lost control of her bladder. Claimant returned to her car and drove home. Claimant immediately contacted Employer and explained what had happened. Employer requested Claimant return to work after changing her clothes; however, Claimant had another loss of bladder control and informed Employer she would not be returning to work that day.

On July 23, 2007, Claimant filed a claim petition alleging that she sustained work-related injuries to her back and legs on February 16, 2007, when she slipped on ice in Employer's parking lot. On March 30, 2008, Claimant filed a second claim petition, adding a neck injury. Employer filed timely answers, denying that Claimant sustained a work-related injury.

In support of her petitions, Claimant testified by deposition and presented documentary evidence. Claimant also presented the deposition testimony of Jonathan W. McCullough, D.C. In opposition, Employer presented the testimony of Erin Paglione, Assistant Director of Human Resources, and the deposition testimony of Robert M. Cohen, M.D. The WCJ found the testimony of Claimant and Dr. McCullough to be entirely credible, and found Ms. Paglione's testimony credible to the extent that it did not conflict with the testimony of Claimant and Dr. McCullough. Dr. Cohen's testimony was found credible to the extent that it did not conflict with the testimony of Dr. McCullough.*fn2

By decision dated November 25, 2008, the WCJ concluded that Claimant sustained injuries to her back, neck, and legs in the course and scope of her employment. Specifically, the WCJ found that Claimant was injured in the course and scope of employment because she was furthering Employer's business pursuant to the "personal comfort doctrine" and, in addition, because she was injured on Employer's "premises." Employer appealed to the Board. By order dated October 26, 2009, the Board affirmed. The Board determined that Claimant was injured in the course and scope of employment because (1) Claimant was injured on Employer's premises, (2) Claimant was required by the nature of her employment to be present where the injury occurred, and (3) Claimant's injuries were caused by a condition of the premises.*fn3

On appeal,*fn4 Employer argues that the Board erred in finding that Claimant sustained her injuries in the course of her employment. Employer also argues that the WCJ failed to issue a reasoned decision.*fn5

We address, first, Employer's contention that the Board erred in finding that Claimant was injured in the course of her employment. Pursuant to Section 301(c)(1) of the Act, an injury is compensable if it "(1) arises in the course of employment and (2) is causally related thereto." U.S. Airways v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd. (Dixon), 764 A.2d 635, 640 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000), allocator denied, 567 Pa. 753, 788 A.2d 382 (2001). Injuries may arise in the course of employment in two distinct situations:

(1) where the employee is injured on or off the employer's premises, while actually engaged in furtherance of the employer's business or affairs; or (2) where the employee, although not actually engaged in the furtherance of the employer's business or affairs, (a) is on the premises occupied or under the control of the employer, or upon which the employer's business or affairs are being carried on, (b) is required by the nature of his employment to be present on the employer's premises, and (c) sustains injuries caused by the condition of the premises or by operation of the employer's business or affairs thereon.

Id.

Employer asserts that Claimant was not injured in the course of her employment because the parking lot at issue was not part of Employer's "premises." Employer contends the parking lot was not part of Employer's "premises" because Employer neither owns nor leases the parking lot and because Employer shares the parking lot with all other tenants of Bucks Town Corporate Campus. Employer further argues that the parking lot was not part of Employer's "premises" because use of the ...


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