Per a January 17, 2014 decision of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Harrah’s Atlantic City (Harrah’s) is liable for a claim occurring at the very outskirts of its property.
The undisputed facts of the claim are that Ms. Burdette, a casino dealer for Harrah’s, finished her shift on September 19, 2012. During the course of her exit from the property, she drove her vehicle along a Harrah’s internal driveway and through a Harrah’s security gate, but her vehicle was struck while she was in the course of making a left-hand turn onto MGM Mirage Boulevard – a public highway. However, at the time of the impact and as confirmed by images from surveillance cameras, a small portion of Ms. Burdette’s vehicle was located on the apron of Harrah’s driveway.
When Ms. Burdette filed a workers’ compensation claim, Harrah’s denied responsibility and filed a motion to dismiss as claimant’s shift had ended and her accident did not arise out of and in the course of employment. Ms. Burdette filed a motion for temporary disability and medical benefits. The judge noted on May 16, 2013 that because approximately one foot of the claimant’s vehicle was on Harrah’s property, she was “still in her course of employment with Harrah’s.” Harrah’s appealed, contending that the premises rule of N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 was misapplied because, while a portion of the vehicle remained on Harrah’s property, the claimant’s physical injuries (which presumably occurred in the driver’s seat) actually occurred off of the property.
On appeal, the Court concluded that Ms. Burdette “never fully left her employer’s premises. Although her vehicle was in the midst of navigating a left turn onto a public thoroughfare, the exact spot where Burdette suffered injuries was neither remote from, nor unconnected to, her work premises.” The court based this decision on “common sense,” the “inextricable connection between Harrah’s premises and the collection,” and the “unjust” result of allowing Harrah’s to avoid liability in the claim.
Although the facts of this claim are quite unusual, employers would do well to note the outcome of this matter and be aware of potential liability even after employees finish their work day.
For more, see Burdette v. Harrah’s Atlantic City, Docket No. A-47974-12T1, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2012 N.J. Super Unpub LEXIS 114 (January 17, 2014).