Chapman v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 72299

Decision Date08 December 1995
Docket NumberNo. 72299,72299
Citation258 Kan. 653,907 P.2d 828
PartiesMelva CHAPMAN, Appellant, v. BEECH AIRCRAFT CORP., Appellee.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. The Kansas Workers Compensation Act, K.S.A. 44-501 et seq., is to be liberally construed for the purpose of bringing employers and employees within the provisions of the Act to provide the protections of the Act to both. K.S.A. 44-501(g).

2. The K.S.A. 44-508(f) special hazard exception to the going and coming rule of the Kansas Workers Compensation Act contains three elements: (1) The worker must be on the only available route to or from work; (2) the route must involve a special risk or hazard; and (3) the route must be one not used by the public except in dealing with the employer.

3. The question of whether the K.S.A. 44-508(f) special hazard exception to the going and coming rule applies must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

4. Under the facts of this case, where the employee uses a company-owned parking lot on one side of a public street that is a heavily traveled major city artery and must walk across that street to reach the company's plant for work, and where the general public uses such route only in dealing with the employer, it is held that such employee is using a route that involves a special risk or hazard.

Brian D. Pistotnik, of Brian and Tamara Pistotnik, P.A., of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellant.

Jeff C. Spahn, Jr., of Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Swartz, L.C., of Wichita, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

SIX, Judge:

This is a workers compensation case interpreting the "special hazard" exception to the K.S.A. 44-508(f) "going and coming rule." Melva Chapman, an employee of Beech Aircraft Corp., was injured while crossing a public street between a company-owned parking lot and the plant where she worked. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) entered a workers compensation award, determining that Chapman's injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment. The Workers Compensation Board (Board) reversed the ALJ's findings. The Court of Appeals reversed the Board and reinstated the ALJ's award. Chapman v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 20 Kan.App.2d 962, 894 P.2d 901 (1995). We granted Beech's petition for review. Our jurisdiction is under K.S.A. 20-3018(b).

We affirm the Court of Appeals and reverse the Board. Chapman is covered by workers compensation.

THE QUESTION

Did the Court of Appeals err in determining that the special hazard exception to the going and coming rule of K.S.A. 44-508(f) applies and, consequently, Chapman's injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment with Beech?

FACTS

The facts are quoted from the Court of Appeals opinion:

"Chapman was injured while going to work as she crossed, on foot, a busy public street (Central Street) in Wichita, Kansas. The street runs between the Beech's company-owned parking lot and the aircraft plant where Chapman worked. Beech owns all of the property on the south side of Central where the parking lot is located for a distance of about one mile. The majority of the property on the north side is also owned by Beech, with the exception of a few residences. All Beech employees who park in the lot are required to cross Central Street in order to get to work. There are three crosswalks available for use by the employees who cross the street in the general area in question. Beech issues parking stickers to its employees which allow them to park in this particular lot.

"On the day of Chapman's injury, January 8, 1991, she was to report for work at 7:00 a.m. She parked in the lot at approximately 6:40 a.m. and was injured when she was struck by a vehicle while she was attempting to cross Central Street in the middle of the block. Chapman was not using any of the designated crosswalks at the time of the occurrence. She had not yet clocked in for work at the time of the accident. In summary, Chapman was between the premises of her employer on a public street atthe time of the injury and had not yet assumed her duties of employment." 20 Kan.App.2d at 963, 894 P.2d 901.

DISCUSSION

The Kansas Workers Compensation Act (the Act), K.S.A. 44-501 et seq., is to be liberally construed for the purpose of bringing employers and employees within the provisions of the Act to provide the protections of the Act to both. The Act is to be applied impartially to both employers and employees. K.S.A. 44-501(g). The burden of proof rests by statute on Chapman to prove "the various conditions of which [her] right depends." K.S.A. 44-501(a); see K.S.A. 44-508(g).

K.S.A. 44-508(f) provides in relevant part:

"The words 'arising out of and in the course of employment' as used in the workers compensation act shall not be construed to include injuries to the employee occurring while the employee is on the way to assume the duties of employment or after leaving such duties, the proximate cause of which injury is not the employer's negligence. An employee shall not be construed as being on the way to assume the duties of employment or having left such duties at a time when the worker is on the premises of the employer or on the only available route to or from work which is a route involving a special risk or hazard and which is a route not used by the public except in dealings with the employer." (Emphasis added.)

The first sentence of K.S.A. 44-508(f) establishes the going and coming rule, which bars an employee injured on the way to or from work from workers compensation coverage. The last sentence of 44-508(f) describes the premises and special hazard exceptions. If the employee is injured on the way to or from work while on the employer's premises or on a special hazard route, the employee is eligible for coverage. This case deals with the special hazard exception.

The question of whether the K.S.A. 44-508(f) special hazard exception in the going and coming rule applies must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. See Messenger v. Sage Drilling Co., 9 Kan.App.2d 435, 438, 680 P.2d 556, rev. denied 235 Kan. 1042 (1984).

ALJ and Board Findings

The ALJ crafted his rationale after a concept he identified as the "majority rule." He did not rely on either the premises or the special hazard exceptions to K.S.A. 44-508(f).

"If this case were viewed as one in which the claimant was on her way to work it would not be considered compensable since the route claimant was injured on, while it did have a special risk or hazard, was not a route which is used by the public only in dealing with respondent.

"In this case claimant argues that she had already arrived at work. If she had been injured in the parking lot, and had not been attempting to cross the street to the plant, her accident would have been considered compensable without question.

"The question to be addressed in this case is whether Kansas would follow the majority rule cited by claimant, as set out in Larson's Workman's Compensation Law, Sections 15.14(a) and (b), that injuries sustained by employees on a public road while going between two parts of the employer's premises are compensable. I find that Kansas would follow that rule."

The Board, in reversing the ALJ, determined that in view of Thompson v. Law Offices of Alan Joseph, 19 Kan.App.2d 367, 372, 869 P.2d 761 (1994) (later affirmed by this court at 256 Kan. 36, 883 P.2d 768 [1994] ), the more liberal rule stated in Larson's treatise did not apply in Kansas. The Board concluded neither the premises nor the special hazard exception to K.S.A. 44-508(f) applied:

"In order to reach the plant claimant had to cross Central Street in one of the several available crosswalks. Claimant, electing to forego the use of the crosswalks, jaywalked across Central Street....

....

"The claimant in this instance was injured while crossing a busy city street in Wichita, Kansas. The claimant was on her way to assume the duties of employment but it can not be said that the route across Central is a route involving a special risk or hazard and it further cannot be said it is a route not used by the public except in dealings with the employer. Central Street, in that vicinity, is a major city artery to several businesses in east Wichita."

The Court of Appeals Opinion

The Court of Appeals agreed that the premises exception in 44-508(f) did not apply, because Central Street, where the injury occurred, was not on Beech's premises. However, the Court of Appeals determined that the special hazard exception did apply. We agree. Beech argued that since Chapman could have used any one of three crosswalks on Central Street, but instead chose to jaywalk, the route she chose was not the only "available route." The Court of Appeals reasoned that since Beech did not argue the crosswalks are any safer than Chapman's path or that Chapman's path was illegal, Chapman's only available route would include crossing Central Street "generally," including the route that she actually took. The Court of Appeals: (1) found that Central Street was a heavily traveled major artery in Wichita; (2) took judicial notice of the fact that the street would be dark at 6:40 a.m. on January 8, 1991; (3) determined that the street constituted a "special risk or hazard"; and (4) determined that the only pedestrians using this route (across Central Street) would be Beech employees or persons having dealings with Beech. 20 Kan.App.2d at 968-70, 894 P.2d 901.

Standard of Review

In Kindel v. Ferco Rental, Inc., 258 Kan. 272, 277, 899 P.2d 1058 (1995), we set out the standard of review to be applied to the Board's decisions:

"Review of the Board's decision is now by the appellate courts in accordance with the Act for Judicial Review and Civil Enforcement of Agency Actions, K.S.A. 77-601 et seq. See L.1995, ch. 1, § 3.

"Under K.S.A. 77-621, appellate review is explicitly limited to questions of law. That statute states in relevant part:

'(c) The court shall grant relief only...

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