SALEM — A teacher injured in a fall in a Bend elementary school parking lot isn’t eligible for workers compensation because she was not on the clock at the time of the accident. That’s the conclusion of the Oregon Court of Appeals in an opinion issued Wednesday.
“It’s kind of an unusual situation,” said Aron Yarmo, attorney for Christina King, the substitute teacher who injured her ankle in the fall. “If she was a regular teacher, she would have been covered.”
However, Yarmo said that because King was a contractor working in the school, her claim wasn’t covered.
According to the court’s summary of the case, King was an employee of the High Desert Education Service District, which provides substitutes on a contract basis to school districts in central Oregon. At the time she got hurt, she was filling in for another educator at an elementary school in Bend.
King’s shift normally ended at 4 p.m. but the school’s principal directed teachers to leave after students were released at 3:30 p.m. due to inclement weather. King left her classroom classroom after students were dismissed before 4 p.m.
Yarmo said that on her way out, King stopped to make sure a student had a ride home. King then went to the parking lot where she slipped and fell on ice, injuring her ankle. Yarmo said that King broke her ankle and required surgery. He said that King filed a claim seeking lost wages and medical bills.
However, the High Desert Education Service District denied the claim on grounds that she was not on the job when she was injured. An administrative law judge agreed with the district, who cited the state’s “going and coming rule.” Under the rule, injuries that workers experience while going to or coming from a job aren’t eligible for compensation.
The state Workers’ Compensation Board later affirmed the judge’s decision. There is an exception to the going and coming rule for parking lots. But the board found that it didn’t apply to King because her employer didn’t have any control over the parking lot where she slipped and fell.
King did not challenge the board’s determination that the parking lot exception did not apply to her case, according to the appeals court opinion. However, the opinion notes that King argued that the parking lot was part of her employment premises and testified that “had she encountered a child in the parking lot in need of assistance, it would have been within her responsibility as a teacher to assist.”
Her lawyer further argued in court that she was technically still on her shift at the time she left the school and would have returned to the building had the principal asked. But the court of appeals determined that the going and coming rule applied in King’s case.
“Claimant slipped on ice and injured her ankle after she had been released from duty for the day,” read the court’s opinion. “Because claimant suffered that injury while she was traveling ‘from work,’ the injury did not occur in the course of her employment.”
Yarmo said that he did not plan to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.