North Carolina Worker Injured While Retrieving Paycheck Denied Benefits Under “Going and Coming” Rule

A North Carolina appellate court, in Quiroz v. Metropols Statuary, Inc., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2619 (Dec. 20, 2011), recently affirmed a decision by the state’s Industrial Commission that had denied workers’ compensation benefits to a laborer who injured his elbow when he slipped while retrieving his paycheck from a mailbox located in front of the employer’s property, outside a fence owned and maintained by the State of North Carolina and a gate owned and maintained by the employer. A deputy commissioner had earlier ruled that the injury arose out of and in the course of the employment, but the Commission disagreed and the laborer appealed. 

The employer manufactured ornamental garden statuaries and maintained a lot for retail customers. The employer generally did not open for business on days when there was inclement weather, since most of its operations were out-of-doors. On the day he was injured, the laborer did not work because of bad weather. He called in at the middle of the day to inquire about his paycheck. The employer’s principal indicated the check would be prepared and placed in the mailbox for the laborer to retrieve after 3:30 p.m. At approximately 4:30 p.m., the laborer entered the driveway outside the fence surrounding the employer’s property, parked his car four or five feet from the mailbox, and retrieved his check. As he turned to return to his vehicle, he began to fall but reached toward the open car door, striking his elbox as he maneuvered.

The deputy commissioner found that the injury arose within the course and scope of the employment, but the Full Commission found that the claim was barred by the “going and coming” rule. The appellate court agreed. The court stressed that the employer’s “premises” could not be so extended as to take in the spot where the injury occurred. While a number of North Carolina cases allowed recovery for injuries in parking lots and adjacent areas to the employer’s primary facility, generally the parking lot or area was owned by, or at least controlled by, the employer. Here, there was no such control. The laborer was not injured on the employer’s land. The area was not under the employer’s control. The claim was barred by the going and coming rule.

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