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Teacher Found Still In Employment When Injured After Picking Up Child At School Where Teacher Worked

By on August 4, 2011 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Workers’ compensation issues often arise in the context of civil litigation.  That is what happened in the case of High v. Rose, A-2539-09T1 (App. Div. July 26, 2011). 

Toni Lee High worked as a nurse at Montclair Kimberley Academy.  On the day of the accident High was supervising children entering school buses at the Academy after their dismissal at 2:45 p.m.  She remained on the school property, however, for another hour and a half because she was assisting another teacher.  During the same afternoon, defendant Dana Rose was teaching at the Academy.  She finished her teaching duties, attended a faculty meeting, and then at 4:15 p.m. picked up her son who attended the school’s pre-kindergarten after-school care program.

The accident happened in the parking lot.  High concluded her assistance with a teacher and started walking to her car.  At the same time, Rose put her son in the car seat and commenced to back out of the parking space, only to strike High just as she was walking behind her vehicle.  High obtained workers’ compensation benefits and then sued Rose in civil court.  The defense carrier moved to dismiss the law suit on the grounds of the exclusive remedy provision.

The general rule in New Jersey is that injuries in employer-owned parking lots are considered on-premises injuries.  In this case, plaintiff High argued that Rose was not in the course of her employment because all she was doing was picking up her son.  For High to proceed on her civil action, she had to persuade the judge that Rose’s employment essentially ended when she left the faculty meeting.  Obviously, co-employees cannot bring a civil suit against each other due to the exclusive remedy provision. 

The trial judge and the appellate court disagreed with plaintiff High.  Both courts found that Rose was still acting as an employee when the accident took place.  The Appellate Division found that enrolling a child in a pre-kindergarten class at one’s place of employment constitutes a mutual benefit to the employer and the employee.  The court said that just because someone is off the clock does not mean that the person loses protection under workers’ compensation. 

“An employer’s parking lot is part of the employment premises, and an employee entering or using the lot is in the course of employment.”  In response to plaintiff’s argument, the court said, “We reject plaintiff’s argument that defendant ceased being in the course of her employment after she picked up her child from the after-school care program operated at Brookside.  The child was attending the after-school program so that plaintiff could complete her teaching duties.”   Since defendant was still in employment, the plaintiff could not bring a civil suit against her and was limited to her remedy in the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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