Co-Worker Entitled to Fellow Employee Immunity in Parking Lot Accident
An employee of a southeastern Ohio manufacturing plant will not receive more than $700,000 in economic damages he was awarded at trial for a parking lot accident after a ruling on January 28 by the Fourth District Court of Appeals.
Kraton Polymers employee Steven E. Jeffers rear-ended co-worker Kenneth R. Bungard Jr.’s truck as Jeffers pulled into the parking spot behind Bungard, who was about to get out of his truck. In a complaint against Jeffers, Bungard alleged negligence. Jeffers admitted his negligence, but argued he was immune from liability based on the fellow employee doctrine in R.C. 4123.741. Jeffers argued that determining fellow employee immunity was a question for the judge not the jury, but the trial court disagreed. In finding that the accident did not occur in the course of and arising out of Bungard’s employment, the jury awarded Bungard $723,751.13 in economic damages. Jeffers appealed that decision to the Fourth District.
The appeals court’s unanimous decision was authored by Judge William H. Harsha III. He noted that the appeals court agreed with Jeffers that the trial court erred by overruling his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Jeffers established that he was entitled to immunity under the terms of R.C. 4123.741 as a matter of law. Judge Harsha also cited several cases that speak to the “coming-and-going” rule exception to determine whether an injury is compensable under Workers’ Compensation.
“Based on the evidence produced at trial, reasonable minds could only conclude that the parties’ employer controlled the parking lot where the accident occurred and therefore it occurred in the zone of employment,” Judge Harsha wrote.
“And because Bungard was on his way to work when the accident happened and it was necessary for him to pass through one of the employee parking lots to enter his place of work, his injury occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment and is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. By establishing the causal connection between Bungard’s injury and employment, Jeffers was entitled to fellow employee immunity as a matter of law.”
Judges Peter B. Abele and Matthew W. McFarland joined the opinion that reversed the decision of the Washington County Common Pleas Court.
Bungard v. Jeffers, 2014-Ohio-334
Civil Appeal From: Washington County Common Pleas Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Remanded
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: January 28, 2014
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