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University employee injured on public sidewalk entitled to comp: Court

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Howard University

A university employee who was walking across campus and collided with a jogger should have been entitled to workers compensation benefits even though she technically stepped foot off campus and onto a public walkway at the time of the incident, the District of Columbia Appeals Court ruled Thursday.

The court reversed a Compensation Review Board decision overturning a workers comp judge’s decision awarding benefits to Miriam Rieger.

Ms. Rieger, a faculty member at Howard University, was walking from one university building to another when she was struck by a jogger, an accident that led to a concussion, whiplash and nausea, according to the ruling in Rieger v. D.C. Department of Employment Services, et al.

After being dropped off for work, Ms. Rieger realized she needed a document from the medical-arts building. The route required her to briefly leave university grounds and use a public sidewalk. The incident happened on the sidewalk.

A workers comp judge found the injuries compensable, but the review board reversed, saying Ms. Rieger had the option of being dropped off directly at the medical-arts building, which would have ensured she remained on campus property, but that she engaged in a “purely personal” choice to use a public sidewalk.

The appeals court said Ms. Rieger’s workday began upon arrival at the university, and that the claim should have been accepted under a “going and coming rule” that serves as an exception to employees injured while on a work-related errand.

The court remanded the case for further proceedings.