Wiley Mfg. Co. v. Wilson

Decision Date27 April 1977
Docket NumberNo. 21,21
Citation373 A.2d 613,280 Md. 200
PartiesWILEY MANUFACTURING COMPANY et al. v. Robert Leslie WILSON et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Theodore B. Cornblatt and Alfred M. Porth, Baltimore (Smith, Somerville & Case, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellants.

A. Harold DuBois, Baltimore (Verderaime & DuBois, P.A., Baltimore, A. Freeborn Brown, Brown, Brown & Lanahan and Stanley Getz, Bel Air, on the brief), for appellees.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SINGLEY, SMITH, DIGGES, LEVINE and ELDRIDGE, JJ.

LEVINE, Judge.

We granted certiorari in this case to decide whether the injuries sustained by two co-workers while taking a shortcut along a railroad right of way to a company parking lot, located some 790 feet from the entrance to their place of employment, arose 'out of and in the course of' their employment within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act, Maryland Code (1957, 1964 Repl.Vol., 1976 Cum.Supp.) Art. 101, § 15. 1 The Circuit Court for Cecil County (Roney, J.) upheld awards granted the claimants by the Workmen's Compensation Commission, and the Court of Special Appeals, in a carefully considered opinion affirmed in Wiley Mfg. Co. v. Wilson, 30 Md.App. 87, 351 A.2d 487 (1976). We affirm.

On March 21, 1974, at 7:30 a. m., appellees, Robert Leslie Wilson, a shipfitter, and Franklin LeRoy Jones, a welder, arrived for work at the steel fabricating plant and shipyard maintained by appellant Wiley Manufacturing Company, their employer, at Port Deposit, Maryland. Because of inclement weather, they were released for the day at approximately 11:30 a. m. They 'punched out' at the 'time shack' and, joined by Arthur Allen Brewer and some other employees, proceeded to walk up the main line tracks of the Penn Central Railroad in the direction of the 'north parking lot,' where Jones, who was planning to drive Wilson to his home, had parked his car earlier that morning. While walking along the tracks, they and Brewer were struck from the rear by a northbound train, and sustained the injuries leading to the workmen's compensation claims which culminated in this appeal.

The physical facts necessary to an understanding of this case are best demonstrated by a plat admitted in evidence as an exhibit, which we have attached as an appendix to this opinion. The Penn Central Railroad tracks run generally in a north-south direction alongside the Wiley plant. Access to the plant is gained at a public crossing directly in front of the main entrance, which lies at the foot of Ferry Street. Traditional grade-crossing signals are located at that point. The time shack is located just in front of the plant entrance. Ferry Street extends easterly from the plant entrance for distance of 202 feet to Main Street, which parallels, the railroad track. The entrances to the north parking lot, one of two maintained by Wiley for its employees, are on Main Street. The plant itself is surrounded by a 10-foot fence, but the north parking lot is not enclosed.

Testimony revealed that the Wiley Company employed approximately 350 men on two shifts. Every day prior to the accident, between 50 and 100 of them took the shortcut to the north parking lot by walking the entire 790-foot distance along the railroad tracks. This amount of pedestrian traffic remained virtually undiminished following the accident, despite the company's subsequent attempts to warn and discourage employees from walking on the railroad right of way. None of these efforts were made prior to the accident, although the company had been aware for several years of the use of the tracks by its employees. Approximately 30 trains, all but a few of which hauled freight, used the tracks on a daily basis. Some of these trains included 100 cars or more.

After being released from work on the day of the accident, Wilson and Jones departed from the time shack and headed for the north parking lot by proceeding along the Penn Central tracks, as was their custom, instead of walking up Ferry Street to Main Street and then to the parking lot. While they were doing so, a train was stopped on the southbound track. When the northbound train approached, it began sounding a warning signal while some 100 yards south of the crossing. At least one of the other employees heard the signal and leaped to safety, but appellees did not, apparently because of the noise created by the stationary train on the southbound track, and were therefore struck from the rear at a point some 350 feet north of the time shack.

Employees of Wiley Manufacturing are paid until such time as they 'punch out' at the time shack. Beginning at that point they are no longer under the control or supervision of their employer, particularly in regard to their route of travel or mode of transportation. The railroad tracks are owned by Penn Central and the two parking lots are maintained by Wiley as a 'fringe benefit' for the convenience of the employees. The only direct testimony of the comparative distances between the time shack and the north parking lot was provided by the plant safety manager, who testified that the route along the tracks was only some 25 feet shorter than that along Ferry and Main Streets and that this distance might have been even less, depending upon the particular location of an automobile on the parking lot. 2

In upholding the ruling of the Workmen's Compensation Commission, the circuit court rejected the contention advanced by the employer and insurer that the injuries did not arise 'out of and in the course of' employment, as required by the statute, saying:

'In the absence of any action by the employer to discourage or prevent its employees from using the route along the railroad tracks to reach its parking lot, the employer impliedly consented to its use by its employees, and it being the natural or most direct way as well as the practical, customary, convenient and recognized way of ingress and egress, this case falls within the proximity rule exception to the general going and coming rule and the injuries sustained by the claimants in this case are compensable.' (Emphasis added).

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, and speaking through Judge Moore concluded that:

'. . . (W)orkmen's compensation may properly be awarded as arising out of and in the course of employment where, as here, the injuries were sustained between two separate portions of the employer's premises on a means of egress more convenient but less safe than an available public street and where the evidence shows that the use of such egress was common, continued over a substantial period of time, and was neither forbidden nor warned against by the employer prior to the occurrence.' 30 Md.App. at 106, 351 A.2d at 498.

We noted at the outset that the question here is whether the injuries sustained by the employees arose 'out of and in the course of' their employment within the meaning of Art. 101, § 15. This statutory standard has been the subject of frequent judicial interpretation throughout the history of the workmen's compensation law. As we have said on numerous occasions, the words 'out of' refer to the cause or origin of the accident, while the words 'in the course of' relate to the time, place and circumstances under which it occurs. Proctor-Silex v. DeBrick, 253 Md. 477, 480, 252 A.2d 800 (1969); Dep't of Correction v. Harris, 232 Md. 180, 183 192 A.2d 479 (1963). We are concerned here with the 'course of employment' requirement, which 'demands that the injury be shown to have arisen within the time and space boundaries of the employment, and in the course of an activity whose purpose is related to the employment.' 1 Larson, Law of Workmen's Compensation § 14.00 (1972).

In common with most other courts throughout the country, we have adopted the general rule that injuries received by an employee while going to or returning from his place of employment (the 'going and coming rule') do not arise 'out of and in the course of' employment, and therefore are not compensable under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Dir. of Finance v. Alford,270 Md. 355, 359-60, 311 A.2d 412 (1973); Saylor v. Black & Decker Mfg. Co.,258 Md. 605, 607-608, 267 A.2d 81 (1970); Tavel v. Bechtel Corporation,242 Md. 299, 303, 219 A.2d 43 (1966). The reason for the rule is that the workmen's compensation law contemplates an employee engaged in a service growing out of his employment. An employee who is merely going to or coming from his work is not rendering any such service. He is therefore exposed to the hazards encountered on such trips, not as an employee, but rather as a member of the general public. Tavel v. Bechtel Corporation, 242 Md. at 303, 219 A.2d 43; Rumple v. Henry H. Meyer Co., Inc., 208 Md. 350, 357, 118 A.2d 486 (1955).

By judicial decision, several well-established exceptions have been engrafted upon the 'going and coming' rule. Here, the employees rely upon two such exceptions. The first, sometimes called the 'premises' exception, is usually invoked where the employee is injured while traveling along or across a public road between two portions of his employer's premises, whether going or coming, or pursuing the actual duties of his employment. A typical application of this exception occurs where injury is sustained by an employee while traveling between a company parking lot and his employer's plant:

'Since . . . a parking lot owned or maintained by the employer is treated by most courts as part of the premises, the majority rule is that an injury in a public street or other off-premises place between the plant and the parking lot is in the course of employment, being on a necessary route between the two portions of the premises. . . .' 1 Larson, supra at § 15.14 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted).

The cases throughout the country, therefore, apply the 'premises' exception not only where injuries are sustained on the employer-maintained parking lot itself, 3 but also where the accident occurs...

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