Some employers provide rental housing so employees can live near their work sites.
If you do, be aware that employee injuries that happen near that housing can open a legal can of worms that will leave you wishing you only had to deal with a workers’ compensation claim.
Employees may be able to sue you for negligence in state court, seeking unlimited damages. That can mean paying out much more money than you would under a workers’ compensation claim.
Recent case: Monnie worked as a corrections officer at San Quentin. California provided him with rental housing near the prison. Monnie paid market rates to live there.
One morning, while on his way to work, he claimed that a concrete step at the bottom of the stairs to his apartment collapsed, injuring him. Monnie sued, alleging negligence.
California countered that since Monnie was on his employer’s property and was walking to work, his injury was really a workers’ compensation claim, which limited his recovery to payments available for lost wages and medical expenses.
The court agreed and dismissed the case.
But Monnie appealed. Now the Court of Appeal of California has reversed the decision and reinstated the lawsuit.
It concluded that, given the market rate rental, separate lease and placement of the apartment apart from the actual prison, Monnie was not at work when he was injured, but at home, starting his commute. That made any negligence fair game for a lawsuit. (Wright v. California, No. A139034, Court of Appeal of California, 2015)