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Injuries incurred riding home from work work-related and compensable

In Noboa v. International Shoppes, Inc., the Third Department of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, upheld a ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Board deciding that a claimant was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries which arose while she was riding home from work. The five-judge appellate panel issued a unanimous decision finding that the claim was for work-related injuries.

Background and procedural history

The claimant worked as a sales associate at the employer’s duty-free store at John F. Kennedy International Airport. After the airport was closed by a major snowstorm, the employer closed the store and ended the claimant’s shift early, but paid her for the remainder of her shift. The public transportation that the claimant usually used to go home work was also shut down because of the storm. The employer agreed to transport the claimant and other employees home from the store in a van with no seats. The vehicle was a cargo van used to transport store merchandise. During the ride home in the van, the claimant was repeatedly thrown against the door of the van and sustained spinal injuries as a result.

In 2011, the claimant filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits. Both the employer and the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier objected.

After multiple hearings, a workers’ compensation law judge denied the claim. The judge determined that the complained-of injury did not arise out of and in the course of employment.

Following an appeal, the judge’s decision was reversed by the Workers’ Compensation Board and it issued an order awarding benefits to the claimant.

The employer and the insurance carrier filed an appeal of the board’s decision in the Third Department of the Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

The Third Department’s decision

The Third Department upheld the Board’s award of benefits. The appeals court noted that employees are not ordinarily entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained while commuting to and from work. However, the employer was liable in this particular case, said the court. The employer accepted responsibility for the inherent risks involved in transporting its employees home from the workplace during the snowstorm. The employer was in exclusive control of the means of conveyance. The van used for transporting the employees belonged to the employer and the claimant’s supervisor was the driver. The claimant’s injuries occurred during the course of the employer-provided transportation at a time when she was still on the time clock and was being paid. The appeals court agreed with the Workers’ Compensation Board’s conclusion that, under these circumstances, the claimant’s injuries did in fact arise out of and in the course of her employment.

Contact an attorney

Individuals who have sustained a work-related injury or a medical condition as a result of an occupational disease are urged to immediately seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation matters to ensure that their rights are fully protected.