N.J. Casino Dealer Wins Workers’ Comp Dispute by a Foot

February 10, 2014

New Jersey’s appellate court recently affirmed a ruling that an employee who got injured in a traffic accident while driving out of her employer’s premises is entitled to worker’s comp benefits.

Documents showed that approximately one foot in length of the employee’s car was still within the employer’s driveway when the collision took place. The N.J. Superior Court’s Appellate Division issued its decision on Jan. 17.

The documents show that on Sept. 19, 2012, Carla Burdette, a casino dealer at Harrah’s Atlantic City, completed her shift at 10 p.m. and proceeded to her Ford Explorer in Harrah’s parking yard. Shortly afterwards, she drove through the internal driveway and made a lawful left turn to drive on MGM Mirage Boulevard, a public highway.

But as the employee entered MGM Mirage Boulevard, a Toyota Camry collided with the Explorer, striking the Explorer’s driver door. The police accident report and images from security cameras showed that at the point of impact, the claimant’s car was partially on MGM Mirage Boulevard, but was also still partly over Harrah’s driveway’s apron.

In October 2012, the claimant filed a workers’ comp claim petition with the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation, asserting injuries.

In January 2013, Harrah’s filed its answer denying responsibility for the claim. The claimant filed a motion for temporary and medical benefits.

In May 2013, a judge for the Division of Workers’ Compensation ruled in favor of Burdette. The judge concluded that Burdette’s car had exited the parking lot, but not completely. There was one foot in length of the car still in the area of the parking lot controlled by Harrah’s at the time of the collision. And because the car was still – no matter how little – in the employers’ parking lot, that means the claimant was still in her course of employment, in accordance with the state’s workers’ compensation law.

On appeal, Harrah’s argued that the Division of Workers’ Compensation “misapplied the premises rule.” But the appellate court disagreed with Harrah’s argument. The circumstances of the case revealed that the claimant “never fully left her employer’s premises,” the appellate court said.