South Carolina Supreme Court Adopts “Divided Premises” Rule in Workers’ Compensation Case – Davaut v. University of South Carolina

crosswalkUnder South Carolina workers’ compensation law, employees who are injured in the course of their employment are entitled to certain benefits, such as the payment of medical expenses and disability payments.

While workers’ compensation cases are supposed to be less contentious than tort cases alleging negligence, they are not always easy. Just as with defendants in other personal injury cases, employers and insurance companies will look for a way to avoid responsibility, if at all possible.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of Davaut v. University of South Carolina, the plaintiff was a professor who was injured while walking from a college library to a parking lot. At the time of the accident, the professor’s car was in a university-owned parking lot in which both students and faculty were allowed to park. The professor was struck by a vehicle while walking across a street that bisected the campus. The street was owned by the local city in which the college was located.

The professor filed a workers’ compensation claim against the defendants, her employer and its insurance company. The defendants denied the professor’s claim, based on the “going and coming rule” articulated by the South Carolina courts in previous case law.

Proceedings in the Workers’ Compensation Commission and Court of Appeals

Initially, a single commissioner sided with the defendants, agreeing that the professor’s claim was not compensable under the going and coming rule. An appellate panel of the Workers’ Compensation Commission upheld the single commissioner’s ruling that the professor was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The professor then appealed her case to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, which found that the commission’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. In so holding, the appellate court noted that there were no faculty-designated parking spaces in the area in which the professor’s car was parked.

The Decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court

The court reversed the decisions of the appellate court and the commission, holding that an employee who is hurt while crossing from one portion of his or her employer’s property to another remains within the course of his or her employment as long as he or she travels along a reasonably necessary and direct route.

In adopting the so-called “divided premises” rule, the court noted that, in order for an injury to be compensable, a worker still has the burden of proving that he or she was injured in the perfomance of his or her duties or engaged in something incidental thereto.

If You Have Been Hurt on the Job

On-the-job injury claims are supposed to be simpler than personal injury claims arising from other types of accidents, such as car accidents or slip and fall accidents on someone else’s property. Unfortunately, there are many potential pitfalls that can defeat or reduce the value of an otherwise valid claim. To get help from an experienced and skillful South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Patrick E. Knie today at (864) 582-5118. For your convenience, we have offices located in both Spartanburg and Greenville, from which we serve clients throughout the state.

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