Employer May be Liable for Employee Injury while Walking from Parking Lot

December 16, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can be held liable for injuries an employee suffered while walking from a parking lot to the workplace.

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.

The court’s opinion is here.