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Heath v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

September 25, 1997

ANGELA HEATH Petitioner
v.
MONTANA MUNICIPAL INSURANCE AUTHORITY Respondent/Insurer for CITY OF LEWISTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT Employer.

          Submitted: July 22, 1997

          ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Mike McCarter Judge

         Summary: Cross motions for summary judgment submitted on the question whether claimant's slip and fall, which occurred on a public sidewalk where claimant was walking on the way to work, was within the course and scope of employment.

         Held: Claimant was not within the course and scope of employment where she had not started work, was not yet being paid, and was not performing work-related duties. The fact that claimant worked for the City of Lewistown, which maintained the sidewalk, did not bring her within the course and scope of employment where she was still on a public sidewalk when she fell, not a sidewalk which was part of her specific employer's premises. (Note: affirmed in Angela Heath v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, 1998 MT 111, No. 97-669).

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-71-407, MCA (1995). Police dispatcher who fell on public sidewalk on her way to work was not within the course and scope of employment where she had not started work, was not yet being paid, and was not performing work-related duties. The fact that claimant worked for the City of Lewistown, which maintained the sidewalk, did not bring her within the course and scope of employment where she was still on a public sidewalk when she fell, not a sidewalk which was part of her specific employer's premises. (Note: affirmed in Angela Heath v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, 1998 MT 111, No. 97-669).
Employment: Course and Scope: Coming and Going. Police dispatcher who fell on public sidewalk on her way to work was not within the course and scope of employment where she had not started work, was not yet being paid, and was not performing work-related duties. The fact that claimant worked for the City of Lewistown, which maintained the sidewalk, did not bring her within the course and scope of employment where she was still on a public sidewalk when she fell, not a sidewalk which was part of her specific employer's premises. (Note: affirmed in Angela Heath v. Montana Municipal Insurance Authority, 1998 MT 111, No. 97-669).

         This is a course and scope case involving a slip and fall on a public sidewalk adjacent to the street on which claimant's workplace was located. The dispute is submitted to the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. Respondent filed its motion on May 9, 1997. Petitioner filed her motion on May 28, 1997. On July 18, 1997, counsel orally argued the motions to the Court. With the filing of petitioner's deposition on July 22, 1997, the Court deemed the motions submitted and ready for decision.

         Issue presented: The sole issue presented to the Court is whether the petitioner's slip and fall on the public sidewalk outside her place of employment occurred in the course and scope of her employment.

         Facts

         The parties are not in total agreement as to the facts material to their motions. Nonetheless, after reviewing the factual record they have submitted, and accepting as true those facts which are set forth in their briefs without contradiction, [1] it is clear that the facts essential for resolution of the issue presented by the petition are undisputed and that summary judgment is appropriate. The undisputed, material facts essential for decision are set forth, in narrative form, in the following paragraphs. Since the record consists of a short deposition of claimant, and exhibits attached to the deposition, citations are omitted.

         On April 2, 1996, the petitioner, Angela Heath (claimant), began working as a dispatcher for the Lewistown Police Department. The police department is located in the Lewistown City Building.

         The city building fronts on Watson Street, which is a public street maintained by the City of Lewistown. Adjacent to and abutting the street is a public sidewalk, which will hereinafter be called the "Watson Street sidewalk."

         On the side facing Watson Street, the city building has three separate entrances, one for the fire department, one for the police department, and the third for other city offices. Separate sidewalks link each of the three entrances to the Watson Street sidewalk. The sidewalks and entrances can be seen on the photographs which were attached to claimant's deposition as Exhibits 1 through 3. Those photographs are reproduced at the end of this decision. The sidewalks and entrances are also depicted in a diagram which is attached to claimant's deposition. A copy of that diagram is similarly attached at the end of this decision.

         In addition to the front entrances, the police department has an additional entrance at the rear of the building. The police department's rear entrance is locked, but police department employees are provided keys to that entrance. Claimant, however, had not yet received a key when she was injured.

         There is a parking lot behind the city building and a second lot adjacent to and on the right side of the building when viewed from Watson Street. A "through way" or alley separates the adjacent lot from the building. There is also a third parking lot across Watson Street from the building.

         The rear parking lot has several parking spaces reserved for police department employees. Otherwise, all spaces in the parking lots and on the street, with the exception of a fire lane directly across from the city building, are unreserved and open for parking not only by city employees but by the general public. The parking lot adjacent to the building serves the city building and a nearby community center. Claimant was not required to drive to work and was not paid to do so. She was told she could park in any of the parking lots or on the street, except on Watson Street immediately in front of building.

         On April 3, 1996, her second day of work, claimant left her home for work at approximately 7:30 a.m. She drove to work in her car, arriving at the city building at approximately 7:35 a.m. She parked in the lot adjacent to the building. After exiting her car, claimant walked across the through way and then down the Watson Street sidewalk. As she approached the sidewalk leading to the police department, she slipped and fell. At the time of her fall, she was still on the Watson Street sidewalk and had not entered the sidewalk leading to the police department. A diagram showing where she parked her car, the path she walked thereafter, and the place of her fall is attached to this decision.

         At the time of her fall, petitioner's shift had not begun, she was not being paid, and she was ...


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