Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County. No. 01--MR--801 Honorable Herman S. Haase, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Callum
Claimant, Janice Mores-Harvey, filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2002)) for injuries she sustained when she slipped and fell on employer's, Bob Evans Restaurant's, parking lot. Following a hearing on claimant's section 19(b) petition (820 ILCS 305/19(b) (West 2002)), the arbitrator awarded claimant 15 4/7 weeks' temporary total disability benefits and $18,230.82 in medical expenses. Employer appealed, and the Industrial Commission (Commission) reversed, finding that claimant failed to prove that she suffered accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment with employer. Claimant appealed, and the circuit court reversed and reinstated the arbitrator's decision. Employer now appeals.
Claimant worked as a waitress for employer. On December 17, 1997, at about 6 or 7 a.m., claimant drove to work to begin her 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. She parked her car behind employer's restaurant in the parking lot that surrounds the building. As she exited her car, claimant put one foot down and slipped and fell on ice, hit her head on the car door, and landed on her back. She testified that it had snowed and was very cold outside, and employer's parking lot had not been shoveled.
Claimant walked into the restaurant and informed her manager that she had an accident in the parking lot. The manager, Jennifer Kuder, told claimant that she had been unsuccessful in her attempts to contact a snow removal service. Claimant worked her entire shift that day.
Employer's restaurant is located on the corner of McDonough and Larkin roads in Joliet. Claimant testified that the restaurant is surrounded by a parking lot. There is no parking on McDonough Street, which runs adjacent to the restaurant's entrance. Claimant routinely parked her car in employer's lot behind the restaurant. Employees were directed to park on either the side or back of the parking lot so that customers could park in the front. The lot is not lit. Although no one at employer told claimant that she had to use the restaurant's lot, claimant testified that there was no other place to park. Claimant understood that employer maintained the lot.
The arbitrator awarded claimant 15 4/7 weeks' temporary total disability benefits and $18, 230 in medical expenses. Employer appealed, arguing that claimant failed to prove that she sustained injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment with employer. On review, the Commission reversed the arbitrator's decision. Relying on Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 129 Ill. 2d 52 (1989), the Commission found that claimant's fall resulted from the natural accumulation of snow and ice on a lot intended for the use of employees and customers alike. The record did not support a finding that there was a defect in the parking lot surface. Because the accumulation was a natural hazard to which the general public was equally exposed in all parking areas of employer's restaurant, claimant's claim for compensation was denied.
One Commissioner dissented, arguing that claimant was at an increased risk when she slipped and fell because the snow and ice constituted a defect on employer's lot. Employer's failure to remove the defect on the lot increased the risk of injury faced by claimant because she was required to use the lot to get to work. Furthermore, the dissenting Commissioner indicated that claimant faced an increased risk because she arrived at work at 6 a.m. while it was still dark, and the lot was unlit and unplowed. Unlike the general public, claimant could not choose a parking spot closest to the restaurant door.
Claimant appealed, and the circuit court reversed the Commission's decision and reinstated the arbitrator's award. The court found that the Commission based its ruling in part on its finding that the ice accumulation was a natural accumulation. The court reasoned that such a finding was a negligence law concept that had no bearing in workers' compensation matters. Characterizing the issue as whether the claimant was placed at a greater risk than the general public because of her employment, the court found that she was and that the Commission applied the wrong legal standard. Additionally, the court found that the Commission's finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Employer timely appealed.
Employer argues that the Commission's decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, as claimant's injuries did not arise out of her employment. The determination of whether a claimant's injury arose out of or in the course of the claimant's employment is a question of fact for the Commission to resolve, and its determination will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Homerding v. Industrial Comm'n, 327 Ill. App. 3d 1050, 1054 (2002).
To obtain compensation under the Act, a claimant must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she suffered a disabling injury that arose out of and in the course of the claimant's employment. 820 ILCS 305/2 (West 2002); Baggett v. Industrial Comm'n, 201 Ill. 2d 187, 194 (2002). An injury "arises out of" one's employment if it originates from a risk connected with, or incidental to, the employment and involves a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury. Baggett, 201 Ill. 2d at 194. A risk is incidental to the ...