Ohio Court of Appeals Rules Against Safelite

Shonda Hicks, a licensed insurance surveyor with the Safelite Group, won her appeal in Ohio court Sept. 2 in a workers’ compensation case involving her falling in a parking lot.

On the morning of Feb. 8, 2018, Hicks, who was in her third trimester of pregnancy, fell on the sidewalk adjacent to one of the company’s parking spots designated for expectant mothers, according to court documents.

The court’s order states that “Hicks had looked forward to receiving the permit because the reserved spaces were closer to the building’s entrance, and oftentimes the Safelite parking lot was at or near its capacity.” The Safelite Group leases the parking lot in which Hicks fell and allegedly sustained injuries.

A snowstorm had occurred the previous night. As Hicks stepped on the sidewalk, court documents state, “she slipped and fell to the ground.” Hicks sustained injuries to her lower back and left hip.

Hicks’ claim for workers’ compensation was rejected three times by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, but Hicks filed an appeal on the argument that the court made a two-point error in its summary judgment of her case, which violated Ohio’s come-and-go rule.

The Ohio Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court erred in its summary judgment because Hicks meets the “totality of the circumstances” exception. The court considered the lack of control and not other factors in the exception. The court also erred because Hicks meets the “zone of employment” exception.

Hicks did not travel in the course of her employment, but sat at a desk to perform her duties.

“As a general rule, an employee with a fixed place of employment, who is injured while traveling to or from his place of employment, is not entitled to participate in the Workers’ Compensation Fund because the requisite causal connection between the injury and the employment does not exist,” court of appeals said of the coming-and-going rule.

The few exceptions for the coming-and-going rule are when an injury occurs within the “zone of employment,” employment creates a “special hazard,” a causal connection exists between the injury and employment based on the “totality of circumstances,” and when the injury is sustained while the employee is on “a special mission, errand, service or task for the employer.”

Hicks argued that “zone of employment” and “totality of circumstances” exceptions applied in her workers compensation case.

Safelite moved for summary judgment in November 2019 and argued that Hicks’ alleged injuries did not happen “in the course of” and “arise out of” her employment. The summary judgment was granted by the trial court in January 2020.

On Sept. 2, the court ruled in Hicks v. Safelite Group Inc.: “Ms. Hicks was legally within the employment zone when she slipped and fell in the parking lot next to the office building rented by Safelite. As a result, the alleged injuries suffered by Ms. Hicks from and during her employment were made and the court made a mistake in finding that Hicks was not eligible to participate in the Workers Injury Fund.”

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