Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, No. S-03-971.

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtGERRARD, J.
Citation269 Neb. 89,690 NW 2d 610
Docket NumberNo. S-03-971.
Decision Date14 January 2005
PartiesSTEPHANIE ZOUCHA, APPELLANT, v. TOUCH OF CLASS LOUNGE, APPELLEE.

269 Neb. 89
690 NW 2d 610

STEPHANIE ZOUCHA, APPELLANT,
v.
TOUCH OF CLASS LOUNGE, APPELLEE

No. S-03-971.

Supreme Court of Nebraska.

Filed January 14, 2005.


Michael M. O'Brien, P.C., for appellant.

Matthew J. Buckley and William D. Gilner, of Nolan, Olson, Hansen & Lautenbaugh, L.L.P., for appellee.

HENDRY, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, GERRARD, STEPHAN, McCORMACK, and MILLER-LERMAN, JJ.

GERRARD, J.

NATURE OF CASE

During the early morning hours of June 5, 2001, Stephanie Zoucha was assaulted as she left work at the Touch of Class Lounge (the Lounge) in Omaha, Nebraska. Zoucha was severely injured. She filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, but the single judge of the Workers' Compensation Court dismissed her petition based upon his finding that the assault did not take place on the premises of Zoucha's employer, was not causally related to Zoucha's employment, and thus did not occur in the course of Zoucha's employment. The single judge's order was affirmed by the review panel of the Workers' Compensation Court, and the judgment was affirmed by the Nebraska Court of Appeals; we granted Zoucha's petition for further review. The question presented in this appeal is whether, for workers' compensation purposes, a shopping center parking lot, used by employees of the businesses located in the center, is considered part of the premises of an employer located in the center.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Zoucha was employed at the Lounge as a bartender and waitress starting in early 2001. Patricia Bauer, the owner of the Lounge, testified that Zoucha's duties ended when she closed and locked the door of the Lounge after closing. Zoucha was not required, for instance, to make night deposits of the Lounge's revenue.

On June 4, 2001, Zoucha started her shift at approximately 4:30 or 5 p.m. and was the only bartender working that evening. During the evening, a group of people came in, including William Nunez. At one point during the evening, Zoucha took a drink away from Nunez. Nunez also approached Zoucha and asked if she was interested in smoking marijuana with him after her shift. Zoucha admitted to smoking marijuana on occasion, but testified that she had not smoked marijuana with Nunez before, or socialized with him, and that she told him she would not smoke with him.

Zoucha stopped serving drinks at 1 a.m. and collected drinks from the patrons of the Lounge at 1:15 a.m. See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 53-179 (Reissue 1998). She cleaned up the Lounge, locked up, and left at about 2:15 a.m. Zoucha testified that she went to her car in the parking lot, unlocked the door, put her bags in, and was struck with "[l]ike a tire iron on the back of my head." Zoucha sustained an open skull fracture and other severe injuries. Zoucha has no memory of any events from the time of the assault on June 5, 2001, until June 16. At the time of trial, Zoucha still suffered from significant cognitive impairment, including difficulty with speech and thought formation. Zoucha's purse, containing her tip money from her shift, was stolen and not recovered.

Zoucha testified that she had seen her attacker before being struck and that he resembled Nunez. Nunez was arrested and, at the time of trial, had been charged with the assault. The Omaha police officer who investigated the assault, in an affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Nunez, averred that Nunez had admitted being at the scene, and a denim jacket had been found in Nunez' apartment with Zoucha's blood on it.

Bauer testified that she did not own the building in which the Lounge was located but simply leased space in the building. There were two businesses in the building, including the Lounge, and approximately seven or eight other businesses in another, adjacent building. Characterized generally, the Lounge is located in a suburban shopping plaza or "strip mall." Bauer testified that she did not own or have control or authority over the parking lot, which was provided for the common use of all the businesses located in the plaza. Bauer estimated that Zoucha's car had been located about 50 to 60 feet from the door of the Lounge. Bauer stated that she did not require her employees to park in the plaza parking lot, but would expect them to do so as a matter of convenience.

Zoucha filed a petition in the Workers' Compensation Court seeking disability benefits and medical expenses. After trial, the single judge made findings of fact generally accepting Zoucha's description of the events prior to the assault. However, the single judge concluded that at the time of the assault, Zoucha had left the premises of the Lounge. The single judge applied the "going to and from work" rule, which will be explained in greater detail below, and found that Zoucha "was not in the course of her employment at the time that she suffered her severe injuries." Consequently, the single judge dismissed Zoucha's petition. The review panel of the Workers' Compensation Court, and the Court of Appeals, affirmed the judgment of the single judge for substantially the same reasons articulated by the single judge. See Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, No. A-03-971, 2004 WL 943218 (Neb. App. May 4, 2004) (not designated for permanent publication). Zoucha filed a petition for further review, which we granted.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

Zoucha assigns that the Court of Appeals erred in (1) concluding that Zoucha's injuries did not arise out of and in the course of her employment with the Lounge, (2) concluding that Zoucha's injuries did not occur on the premises of the Lounge, and (3) failing to find a direct causal connection between Zoucha's employment and her injuries.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[1,2] Pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-185 (Reissue 2004), an appellate court may modify, reverse, or set aside a Workers' Compensation Court decision only when (1) the compensation court acted without or in excess of its powers; (2) the judgment, order, or award was procured by fraud; (3) there is not sufficient competent evidence in the record to warrant the making of the order, judgment, or award; or (4) the findings of fact by the compensation court do not support the order or award. Sweeney v. Kerstens & Lee, Inc., 268 Neb. 752, 688 N.W.2d 350 (2004). An appellate court is obligated in workers' compensation cases to make its own determinations as to questions of law. Ludwick v. TriWest Healthcare Alliance, 267 Neb. 887, 678 N.W.2d 517 (2004).

ANALYSIS

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8 practice notes
  • Potter v. Patrick S. Mcculla & Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., No. S-13-944
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 1 Agosto 2014
    ...Acres Nsg. Home, 240 Neb. 189, 481 N.W.2d 189 (1992). 7. Brief for appellants at 17. 8. § 48–101. 9. See, Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005); Tomlin v. Densberger Drywall, 14 Neb.App. 288, 706 N.W.2d 595 (2005). 10.Tomlin, supra note 9. 11.Id. at 297, 706 N.......
  • Tomlin v. Densberger Drywall Inc., No. A-05-284.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 6 Diciembre 2005
    ...i.e., whether it resulted from the risks arising within the scope or sphere of the employee's job. Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). "The `arising out of' employment requirement is primarily concerned with causation Page 605 an injury." Misek v. ......
  • Parks v. Marsden Bldg. Maint., L.L.C., No. A–11–610.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 17 Abril 2012
    ...not willfully negligent at the time of receiving such injury. See, Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48–101 (Reissue 2010); Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). The two phrases “arising out of” and “in the course of” in § 48–101 are conjunctive; in order to recover, a claimant......
  • Webber v. Webber, No. A-18-993.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 5 Mayo 2020
    ...to recover, a claimant must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that both conditions exist. Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge , 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). The "in the course of" requirement tests the work connection as to the time, place, and activity; that is, it ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Potter v. Patrick S. Mcculla & Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., No. S-13-944
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 1 Agosto 2014
    ...Acres Nsg. Home, 240 Neb. 189, 481 N.W.2d 189 (1992). 7. Brief for appellants at 17. 8. § 48–101. 9. See, Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005); Tomlin v. Densberger Drywall, 14 Neb.App. 288, 706 N.W.2d 595 (2005). 10.Tomlin, supra note 9. 11.Id. at 297, 706 N.......
  • Tomlin v. Densberger Drywall Inc., No. A-05-284.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 6 Diciembre 2005
    ...i.e., whether it resulted from the risks arising within the scope or sphere of the employee's job. Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). "The `arising out of' employment requirement is primarily concerned with causation Page 605 an injury." Misek v. ......
  • Parks v. Marsden Bldg. Maint., L.L.C., No. A–11–610.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 17 Abril 2012
    ...not willfully negligent at the time of receiving such injury. See, Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48–101 (Reissue 2010); Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge, 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). The two phrases “arising out of” and “in the course of” in § 48–101 are conjunctive; in order to recover, a claimant......
  • Webber v. Webber, No. A-18-993.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 5 Mayo 2020
    ...to recover, a claimant must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that both conditions exist. Zoucha v. Touch of Class Lounge , 269 Neb. 89, 690 N.W.2d 610 (2005). The "in the course of" requirement tests the work connection as to the time, place, and activity; that is, it ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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