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Employee injured on ride in company van due workers comp benefits

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An employee injured while being given a ride on the floor of a company van during a snowstorm should receive workers compensation benefits, a New York appellate court has ruled.

Rosario Noboa worked for Valley Stream, New York-based International Shoppes Inc. inside its duty-free store at John F. Kennedy International Airport, court records show. The store and the airport closed early during a snowstorm, but International Shoppes agreed to pay Ms. Noboa for the rest of her shift.

Public transportation from the airport was suspended, and International Shoppes transported Ms. Noboa and other employees from the store in a van that had no seats, records show. Ms. Noboa injured her spine during the ride when she was repeatedly thrown against the van door.

Ms. Noboa sought workers comp benefits for her injuries in February 2011. A New York workers comp judge denied the claim, saying that Ms. Noboa's injuries did not arise out of and in the course of her employment.

The New York Workers' Compensation Board reversed that decision and awarded benefits to Ms. Noboa in February 2013. International Shoppes appealed.

A five-judge panel of the New York Supreme Court appellate division unanimously affirmed Ms. Noboa's benefit award on Nov. 6.

While New York normally does not award benefits for workers who are injured while commuting, the court found that International Shoppes was liable because it took responsibility for Ms. Noboa's transportation during the snowstorm.

“Here, it is undisputed that the employer furnished the van for transportation, one of claimant's supervisors was the driver and, further, claimant's injuries were sustained during the course of that transportation while she was still on the clock and being paid,” the ruling reads. “Inasmuch as the employer took responsibility for the inherent risks of transporting its employees from the worksite and had exclusive control of the conveyance, we find no reason to disturb the Board's determination that claimant's injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.”