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A librarian’s injuries from being struck by a snowplow in a township-owned parking lot at the end of her shift are not compensable under the New Jersey Workers Compensation Act, an appellate court ruled Friday.
In Lapsley v. Sparta, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, in Jersey City reversed a workers compensation judge’s decision that the librarian’s injuries were compensable and that her negligence lawsuit against the township was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the act.
Diane Lapsley worked as a librarian for the Sparta Township Library. In February 2014, after clocking out and leaving the building, she was struck by a township-owned snowplow in an adjacent parking lot that was also owned by the township. The lot was used by employees and the general public.
Ms. Lapsley’s leg was severely injured and she was left permanently disfigured by the incident. She filed a negligence complaint against Sparta Township, which moved to deny the motion on the basis that her claim was compensable under the state’s workers compensation act and that her lawsuit was therefore barred by the exclusive remedy provision.
A judge of compensation held that her injuries were compensable under the act’s premises rule, which states that employment begins when the worker arrives at the place of employment and ends when the worker leaves, excluding areas not under the control of the employer.
The judge held that the fact that Ms. Lapsley had clocked out — and that the township did not actually exercise control over the parking lot — did not preclude compensability under the workers comp act.
Ms. Lapsley appealed the decision, contending her injuries did not arise out of her employment.
The appellate court ruled in her favor, holding that the compensation judge’s application of the premises rule “deviates from well-settled principles applicable to private employers and invites an overbroad and unwarranted expansion of public-entity liability for workers compensation claims.”
The court found that the library exercised no control over its workers’ use of the parking lot and said that to conclude otherwise would make a township worker’s injuries compensable on “any town-owned lot or roadway.”