CNA’s Fall On Uneven Pavement Merits Award

Case nameLitchfield Healthcare Center v (Newingham), Industrial Commission 12ILWCLB 68 (Ill.App.CT.,5th 2004).

Ruling: The Appellate Court of Illinois, 5th District, held that the Commission’s decision denying benefits to a CNA for an ankle injury sustained on uneven pavement in the employer’s parking lot was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court reinstated the award of arbitrator.

What it means: Uneven pavement in an employer’s parking lot is a defect that exposes the employee to a risk of injury to a greater extent than that faced by the general public.

Summary: The claimant, a certified nursing assistant, parked in a lot located at the north entrance of her employer’s health-care facility. She parked in this lot at the suggestion of the employer. She walked through the north entrance doors and to the time clock. After punching in, she realized she forgot her gait belt, which is part of her uniform, in her car. She walked to her car and retrieved the belt. While walking back to the building with a coworker, she tripped and fell on uneven concrete. The circuit court reversed the Commission’s decision denying benefits.

The appellate court affirmed, finding the sidewalk was uneven and defective, and therefore, the claimant was exposed to an increased risk of injury. Her regular use of the north parking lot at the suggestion of the employer exposed her to the defective sidewalk to a degree beyond that to which the general public would be subjected.

The court explained that the Commission’s finding of no defect or hazard in the sidewalk was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The claimant’s uncontradicted testimony indicated she tripped on an area of the sidewalk where the slabs of concrete were “not level with each other.” Also, the court noted, the employer’s attorney conceded during oral argument that the photographic exhibits “show varying heights” in the adjoining sidewalk slabs.