The court found that Glenn T. Holsapple, Jr. was acting
within the course and scope of his employment when he walked from an employee
parking lot through a city-owned alleyway to get to his job site. Further, the
court said Union Pacific Railroad Company was liable under the Federal
Employers’ Liabiltiy Act (FELA) for the injury Holsapple suffered when he stepped
into a hole in the alleyway because it knew employees used the alleyway and
implicitly encouraged its use by posting signs discouraging use by the public.
“Employer liability in [FELA] traversing cases does
not depend on whether the employer owns or has control over the premises where
the employee is injured,” the court said in its opinion. The court
explained that employer liability in traversing cases under FELA rests on
whether an employee is exposed to risks not confronted by the general public as
a result of his or her commute, and is injured within proximity of his or
her job site while attempting to return to or leave the job site within a
reasonable time before or after the workday is over.
The court reversed a lower court’s decision and remanded the
case for further proceedings. It said the lower court erred in siding with
Union Pacific because it relied on precedent from FELA commuter cases which
differed from Holsapple’s case because they involved employees who were injured
while using transportation open to the public far away from the job site while
returning home from work.