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Court Rejects Claim for Employee Injured on Ground Floor Elevator in Multi-Tenant Building

By on March 26, 2015 in Compensability with 1 Comment

The case of Burke v. Investors Bank, A-1551-13T1 (App. Div. March 16, 2015) underscores an important point for New Jersey practitioners:  one is not considered to be at work in a multi-tenant building until one arrives at the employer’s business.

On December 3, 2012, Laura Burke parked her car in the parking garage of the office building in which she worked for Investors Bank.  She did not have an assigned parking space, and Investors Bank did not own or maintain the office building.  The bank was one of five tenants in the 10-story building and conducted its business on the ninth and tenth floors of the building.

Burke walked into the building through one of the two entrances and proceeded through the lobby toward one of several elevators.  The lobby had a security attendant, employed by the landlord, who recorded the entrance of visitors by means of a sign-in book.  The elevators were stationed past the security desk.  The bank did not require that its employees use any particular elevator or stairwell.  Burke pressed the button on the elevator panel and walked toward the open elevator, slipping and falling into the elevator and injuring her knee.

A claim petition was filed by Burke against Investors Bank, and the Judge of Compensation dismissed the claim, concluding that the injury was not compensable.  Burke appealed and argued that public policy dictated that this sort of claim must be compensable.  She also argued that her fall should be covered because this was her only path of ingress to her office.

The Appellate Division rejected Burke’s claim and affirmed the dismissal of this case.  It cited the recent Supreme Court decision in Hersh v. Cnty. Of Morris, 217 N.J. 236, 243 (2014).  It said, “While the petitioner in Hersh was injured on a public street and not an office lobby as was Burke, the principles set forth therein guide our decision in this case.”  The court said that the rule in Hersh applied, namely that public places that are not under the control of the employer are not considered part of the employer’s premises for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits.

The key fact in this case was the Investors Bank did not control the lobby area where Burke fell.  It did not own the office building, nor the parking lot.  It was just one of five tenants in the building.  It also had no exclusive use of the lobby area or the elevator in question.  Burke could take any route she wanted to get into the building and take any elevator she wanted.


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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  1. Linda says:

    How is this case any different from say a construction worker who gets injured at the construction site or the road worker driving in a work truck who is involved in a motor vehicle accident? Technically these two workers are also in “public space” not controlled by the employer.

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