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No comp for Kentucky worker injured while on break: Court


A Kentucky worker who was hit by a car while crossing the street during her break isn't entitled to workers compensation benefits, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

As an employee of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage, a division of U.S. Bancorp, in Owensboro, Kentucky, Andrea Schrecker was entitled to an hour-long unpaid lunch break and two 15-minute paid breaks each day, court records show.

During breaks, Ms. Schrecker and other workers regularly went to restaurants located across the street from the bank, according to records.

Ms. Schrecker said she worked through her lunch break on Dec. 31, 2007, as one of her employees was absent from work. And at 1:30 p.m., she decided to cross the four-lane road, which has a traffic island that divides the northbound and southbound lanes, to get to Taco Bell, records show.

While the driver in the outside northbound lane stopped and motioned for Ms. Schrecker to cross the street, the driver in the inside northbound lane didn't see her, according to records.

Ms. Schrecker's head hit the car's windshield, and she sustained injuries to her “mid and low back, chest, right shoulder, left knee, and left calf. She also complained of headaches, depression, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbance related to a traumatic brain injury,” records show.

She was treated for her injuries at the scene and then returned to work, according to records.

She worked at the bank until her employment was terminated in June 2008, records show. She said she was terminated “because she could no longer adequately perform her job duties following her injury,” but bank workers testified that she was terminated for “taking an unapproved vacation,” according to records.

An administrative law judge determined that Ms. Schrecker's injury occurred while she was on one of her paid breaks and that she was within the course and scope of her employment, awarding her medical expense benefits and income benefits based on a 15% impairment rating, records show.

The Kentucky Workers' Compensation Board and a Kentucky appellate court affirmed the judge's decision, leading U.S. Bank to appeal a third time, according to records.

U.S. Bank argued that Ms. Schrecker was not within the course and scope of her employment because she wasn't on the bank's premises when the injury occurred, she had temporarily abandoned her job, and she took an unreasonable route to get to Taco Bell by crossing the street between intersections, records show.

In a 5-2 decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Schrecker was not within the course and scope of her employment when she was injured and, therefore, she isn't entitled to workers comp benefits.

“By crossing the street between intersections and walking in front of a moving vehicle, Schrecker voluntarily exposed herself to a hazard so completely outside those normally encountered in going to or coming from work as to negate any authority U.S. Bank may have had over her,” the ruling states. In addition, there's nothing in the record that states she couldn't have taken her unpaid, hour-long lunch break at 1:30 p.m., according to the ruling.

Ms. Schrecker's claim is not compensable because “she deviated from normal coming and going activities, and that deviation mandates denial of her claim,” the ruling states.

According to the dissent, Ms. Schrecker was under pressure to return to work in a timely manner, which is why she tried to cross the street between intersections rather than at a crosswalk.

The majority didn't take “work and time pressures” into consideration, and that they're citing “normal work patterns on normal work days as evidence of her fault on this abnormal work day,” the dissent states. “So much for a good deed!”