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01/20/88 the County of Cook, v. the Industrial Commission

January 20, 1988





520 N.E.2d 896, 165 Ill. App. 3d 1005, 117 Ill. Dec. 545 1988.IL.48

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Alexander White, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and WOODWARD, McCULLOUGH, and CALVO, JJ., concur.


Petitioner Meta M. Arner sought workers' compensation benefits after an unknown assailant stabbed and robbed her during lunchtime in a parking lot adjacent to the building where her employer, respondent County of Cook, leased space. An arbitrator awarded $167.69 per week for 6 2/7 weeks as temporary total disability; $167.69 per week for 75 weeks for permanent disability to the extent of 15%; and $453.15 for necessary medical expenses. The Industrial Commission affirmed that decision, and the trial court confirmed the Commission's award. Respondent appeals, contending that the Commission's findings that the injuries arose out of and in the course of employment are contrary to law and contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

In 1977, petitioner, who had worked for respondent for 10 years, was a legal secretary for Judge Paul F. Gerrity in Harvey, Illinois. Respondent leased space in the building from the City of Harvey. Numerous felony trials were heard in the courthouse each day. On May 17, 1977, petitioner ate lunch in her car, which was parked in a small lot adjacent to the building. It was not uncommon for the employees to eat in their cars because no lunchroom was provided in the building. Petitioner had a reserved parking space in the lot. Use of the lot was generally restricted to city and county employees, but sometimes members of the public also parked in the lot.

On May 17, a man approached petitioner's car, demanded money, and then repeatedly stabbed petitioner in the left arm, rib area, neck and lower abdomen. Petitioner suffered numerous lacerations, damage to a kidney, and fractured ribs. She was hospitalized for several weeks, and extensive surgery was performed to repair internal bleeding and the torn kidney. Petitioner returned to work on June 30, 1977. Her neck is partially paralyzed and she still experiences pain in her side.

On December 6, 1977, petitioner filed an application for adjustment of claim. On July 28, 1983, an arbitrator awarded temporary total disability and permanent disability benefits. On August 15, 1985, the Commission adopted the findings and decision of the arbitrator. It found that the injury occurred in a parking lot leased by respondent for its employees' use and that the lot was customarily used by employees to eat lunch. The Commission noted the absence of a lunchroom and the knowledge and acquiescence of respondent. The Commission found further that the injury was caused by a danger "generated by the employment, a risk to which petitioner was exposed to a greater degree than the general public because of the type of business conducted. Felony courtrooms were in session on the premises on a daily basis which exposed employees to an increased risk of being victimized." On April 22, 1987, the trial court confirmed the Commission's decision.

Respondent contends that the decision of the Commission is against the manifest weight of the evidence. An injury must arise out of and in the course of one's employment. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.2.) The question whether or not an injury arose out of and in the course of employment is usually one of fact for the Commission to decide. (WKID Broadcasting Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1969), 42 Ill. 2d 236, 246 N.E.2d 277.) The court may not reject reasonable inferences drawn by the Commission based upon competent evidence merely because other inferences might be drawn by the reviewing court. Eagle Discount Supermarket v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 82 Ill. 2d 331, 412 N.E.2d 492.

Respondent first contends that the lunchtime injury was not sustained in the course of petitioner's employment. The language "in the course of" refers to the time, place and circumstances of the injury. (Scheffler Greenhouses, Inc. v. Industrial Comm'n (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 361, 362 N.E.2d 325.) Illinois compensates a covered employee for an accident which occurs during a lunch period if the employee is still on the employer's premises. Because the act of having lunch is reasonably incidental to the employment, compensation is allowed even where the injury was not actually caused by a hazard of employment. (Eagle Discount Supermarket v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 82 Ill. 2d 331, 412 N.E.2d 492.) Thus, petitioner's injuries would be compensable if the parking lot were considered a part of the employer's premises.

Whether the injury occurred on the employer's premises is a factual question and the Commission must resolve conflicts and draw reasonable inferences from the evidence. (C. Iber & Sons, Inc. v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 81 Ill. 2d 130, 407 N.E.2d 39.) Whether the employer owns the parking lot is not always material. It is sufficient if the lot is provided for the use of the employee. C. Iber & Sons, Inc., 81 Ill. 2d 130, 407 N.E.2d 39, citing DeHoyos v. Industrial Comm'n (1962), 26 Ill. 2d 110, 185 N.E.2d 885.

The lease made no reference to parking spaces. The parking lot was adjacent to a city building where respondent leased office space for Judges and their staffs, and courtroom space. The parking lot contains about 40 spaces. Petitioner testified that in 1967, the presiding Judge assigned her a permanent parking space. Petitioner's parking space is several feet from one of two outside doors on that side of the building. The door was not open to the public, and petitioner needed a key to open the door. Judge Gerrity testified that the door was for county personnel.

Petitioner testified that four spaces were assigned for certain county employees. The remaining spaces were for city hall parking. The City of Harvey maintained the lot, which was not fenced. Other city employees could use the lot, but their spaces were not assigned. There were 25 or 30 county employees working in the courthouse, and they ...

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