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The (Food) Lion’s Share
by Ron Davis
Workers’ compensation benefits will go to an employee of a Delaware shopping center tenant for an injury the employee received after leaving work.
The shopping center is located in Seaford, and the tenant is a Food Lion supermarket where the employee works as a manager. Her injury occurred in a shopping center area where Food Lion customers park. After attending a mandatory meeting at the store, she drove her car down a lane of that parking area, and her car collided with another car. She later filed for workers’ compensation, claiming that she is eligible because she was on Food Lion-controlled property at the time of the accident.
Food Lion questioned, however, whether the accident occurred while the employee was engaged in the “course and scope” of her employment, as workers’ compensation rules require before payment can be made. Moreover, Food Lion pointed out that the shopping center actually owns and maintains the parking lot site of the injury.
Under workers’ compensation guidelines, “the generally accepted rule is that injuries occurring while employees are going to and from work are compensable if they occur on the employer’s premises, but are not compensable if they occur off the premises.”
As for ownership of the parking lot, the courts consider a parking lot as part of an employer’s premises if the employer owns it, has acquired the right to use it, or exercises control over it.
The Delaware Industrial Accident Board found that the accident occurred on Food Lion’s premises and resulted “out of and in the course of her employment.” Food Lion appealed that finding.
A Delaware court concurred with the Board’s ruling, explaining, “While Food Lion does not own the parking lot that is in front of and contiguous to its store, Food Lion obviously has the right to use the parking lot and does exercise some degree of control over it. Indeed, in some respects, the parking lot is both an actual and integral part of Food Lion’s premises.”
Moreover, the judge ruled, “There is no doubt that the meeting she attended was a condition, obligation and incident of her employment.... She was doing something that she could reasonably be expected to do, at both a time and a place where she could reasonably be expected to be, when she was injured. She has met all requirements for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits under the facts of this case.” (Delhaize America, Inc. v. Barkas, 2007 WL 2429375 [Del.Super.])
Decision: September 2007
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