Littlefield v. Pillsbury Co.

Citation453 N.E.2d 570,6 OBR 439,6 Ohio St.3d 389
Decision Date31 August 1983
Docket NumberNo. 82-1488,82-1488
Parties, 6 O.B.R. 439 LITTLEFIELD, Appellant, v. PILLSBURY COMPANY et al., Appellees.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio

Syllabus by the Court

1. An employee will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits when the employment creates a special hazard and the injuries are sustained because of that hazard.

2. The special hazard rule applies where: (1) "but for" the employment, the employee would not have been at the location where the injury occurred, and (2) the risk is distinctive in nature or quantitatively greater than the risk common to the public.

All parties stipulated to the following facts:

" * * * [O]n or about August 10, 1977, [plaintiff-appellant], Ronald Littlefield ["Littlefield"], was employed as a grain operator for [defendant-appellee], The Pillsbury Company ["Pillsbury"]. [Pillsbury] is located on River Road, Cincinnati, Ohio.

"On or about August 10, 1977, [Littlefield], together with a co-employee, Mark Van Hook, appeared for work and were [sic ] scheduled to work a twelve (12) hour day. Normally six (6) men were assigned for this duty, however, only five (5) appeared that date.

"[Littlefield], as well as other employees, were [sic ] allowed a fifteen (15) minute paid break in the morning and also in the afternoon as well as an unpaid one-half ( 1/2) hour for lunch.

"On the date of the accident, [Littlefield] was required to work through his normal morning break as well as his normal lunch period. It was a customary and accepted practice by the employer to tack break periods onto lunch time, if a break had not been taken that day. At approximately 1:45 p.m., [Littlefield] and Mr. Van Hook went to obtain lunch.

"No food was provided at the employer's plant and the employees were therefore necessitated to leave the premises to obtain their lunch unless they elected to bring their lunch, which could be eaten in a room provided for that purpose. [Littlefield] obtained his lunch with his co-worker at the closest available luncheon facility. This was approximately one-eighth ( 1/8th) of a mile from the plant on River Road.

"Because of its close proximity to the [Pillsbury] plant, [Pillsbury] occasionally paid directly for beverages and food at this restaurant on behalf of its employees who worked extra hours, and on other occasions at the discretion of [Pillsbury].

"[Littlefield] traveled the one-eighth ( 1/8) mile distance to and from the restaurant in a car driven by his co-worker, Mr. Van Hook. Upon arriving at the entrance of the [Pillsbury] plant, by the most necessary and direct possible route, the vehicle in which [Littlefield] was a passenger was required to wait before turning left due to ongoing heavy truck traffic as is customarily found on River Road. Immediately before the crash, [Littlefield's] vehicle was stopped, with its left turn signal on.

"[Pillsbury's] entrance, at which [Littlefield] was waiting on River Road, was the only means of ingress and egress to [Pillsbury's] plant, and was immediately adjacent to the site of [Littlefield's] accident. River Road is a four (4) land [sic ] public roadway running an [sic ] a general east-west direction, and the vehicle in which [Littlefield] was a passenger had proceeded in a westerly direction and come to a stop. While so waiting, the car was struck from the rear by a grain truck causing multiple injuries including quadriplegia to [Littlefield]. The accident occurred at 2:30 p.m. on August 10, 1977. It is agreed that these injuries were a direct and proximate result of the accident."

Littlefield sought compensation from the Administrator of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, an appellee herein. After a district hearing officer determined that Littlefield's injury "was not sustained in the course of employment," the Dayton Regional Board of Review affirmed that finding and the Industrial Commission refused to hear Littlefield's appeal.

Littlefield appealed the decision of the regional board to the court of common pleas. The parties submitted the case to the court on the stipulated facts quoted above, and the court of common pleas concluded that Littlefield's injury occurred " * * * in the course of and arising out of his employment * * *." The court of appeals reversed, and stated that Littlefield had " * * * failed to establish the necessary causal connection between his injuries and his employment."

The cause is now before this court pursuant to the allowance of a motion to certify the record.

Clark & Eyrich Co., L.P.A., Stephen T. MacConnell, Augustine Giglio and David S. Levine, Cincinnati, for appellant.

Richard L. Martin and William D. Snyder, Cincinnati, for appellee Pillsbury Co.

Anthony J. Celebrezze, Jr., Atty. Gen., and Bernard C. Fox, Jr., Cincinnati, for appellee Administrator.

FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, Chief Justice.

Appellees contend that compensation is precluded because the accident occurred on a public street when Littlefield returned from lunch. However, we conclude, for the following reasons, that Littlefield's claim is not barred.

Our analysis begins with the fundamental requirement in R.C. 4123.01(C) that a compensable injury must occur in the "course of, and arising out of, the injured employee's employment." The statutory mandate has been clarified and defined over the years by the judiciary. This court set forth "[t]he test of the right to participate in the Workers' Compensation Fund is not whether there was any fault or neglect on the part of the employer or his employees, but whether a 'causal connection' existed between an employee's injury and his employment either through the activities, the conditions or the environment of the employment." Bralley v. Daugherty (1980), 61 Ohio St.2d 302, 303 , 401 N.E.2d 448; Indus. Comm. v. Weigandt (1921), 102 Ohio St. 1, 130 N.E. 38; Indus. Comm. v. Gintert (1934), 128 Ohio St. 129, 190 N.E. 400; Fox v. Indus. Comm. (1955), 162 Ohio St. 569 , 125 N.E.2d 1.

The determination of whether an injury has occurred in the "course of and arising out of employment" has been aided by the "going and coming" rule. 1 "As a general rule where an employee, having a fixed and limited place of employment, sustains an injury while traveling to and from his place of employment, such injury does not evidence the required causal connection to the employment; it therefore does not arise out of and in the course of his employment and is not compensable." Bralley v. Daugherty, supra, at 303-304, 401 N.E.2d 448; Lohnes v. Young (1963), 175 Ohio St. 291 , 194 N.E.2d 428; Simerlink v. Young (1961), 172 Ohio St. 427 , 178 N.E.2d 168; Indus. Comm. v. Gintert, supra; Indus. Comm. v. Baker (1933), 127 Ohio St. 345, 188 N.E. 560.

The "special hazard or risk" exception is a means of avoiding the strict application of the general rule. Accordingly, an employee will be entitled to compensation, if the employment creates a special risk, for injuries sustained in the scope of that risk. A special risk may be on the employer's premises or involve the necessary means of access to the premises, even when the access is not under the employer's control or management. Parks v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Bd. (1983), 33 Cal.3d 585, 190 Cal.Rptr. 158, 660 P.2d 382. Thus, when the injury occurs on the only route or at least on the normal route, which the employees must use to reach the premises, the special hazards of that route may become hazards of the employment. See 1 Larson, The Law of Workmen's Compensation (1982), Section 15:13.

This exception has been applied by other jurisdictions in left-turn cases. For example, in Pacific Indemn. Co. v. Indus. Acc. Comm. (1946), 28 Cal.2d 329, 170 P.2d 18, the employee's route to work required a left-turn across oncoming traffic to enter the company parking lot. The court found that the required left turn was a special risk of the employment and held that the injury occurred in the course of employment. Similarly, the court applied the exception in another left-turn situation on a public highway in Greydanus v. Indus. Acc. Comm. (1965), 63 Cal.2d 490, 47 Cal.Rptr. 384, 407 P.2d 296.

In Husted v. Seneca Steel Service, Inc. (1976), 41 N.Y.2d 140, 391 N.Y.Supp.2d 78, 359 N.E.2d 673, the claimant's car was struck on a public highway as he was turning into his employer's parking lot. The court concluded that a special hazard exists for making a left turn across traffic to the only means of access to the premises. The court stated that "the mere fact that the accident took place on a public road or sidewalk may not ipso facto negate the right to compensation * * * [w]hen the employee advances to the point where he is engaging in an act or series of acts which are part and parcel of the entrance into the employment premises, the test of compensability is whether there is such a relationship existing between the accident and the employment as to bring the former within the range of the latter * * * or, stated differently, whether the accident happened as an incident and risk of employment * * *." Id. at 144, 391 N.Y.Supp.2d 78, 359 N.E.2d 673.

Other states have applied the exception to post-workday injuries occurring off the employer's premises. For example, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine held that the accident, which occurred as the claimant was leaving the employer's private road and making a right turn onto a public road, was compensable because the high snow banks created a blind exit. Oliver v. Wyandotte Industries Corp. (Me.1973), 308 A.2d 860, 863. The court noted that " 'whenever the hazards of employment spill over the boundary line and injure an employee on his way to work, his injury arises within the statutory space limitations of the employer's premises and is compensable as having arisen in the course of the employment.' " Id., quoting from Nelson v. St. Paul Dept. of Edn. (1957), 249 Minn. 53, 58, 81 N.W.2d 272.

Although Ohio has not specifically enunciated the special...

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