Compensability of Injuries Sustained by an Employee

July 16, 2009

By: David K. Jaffe

"Out of and in the Course of Employment"

For an employee's injuries to be compensated under the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act, his injuries must have arisen out of and in the course of his employment. If such are the facts of the case, then the Workers' Compensation Act bars the employee from suing his employer, when such injuries are compensable under the Act. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-284(a) provides, in pertinent part: "An employer ... shall not be liable for any action on account of personal injury sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of his employment."

As a general rule, "an injury sustained by an employee on a public highway while traveling to or from his place of employment is not compensable." True v. Longchamps, Inc., 171 Conn. 476, 478 (1976). An exception to this general rule, under which the injury is compensable, occurs "where the employee is injured while using the highway in doing something incidental to his regular employment, for the joint benefit of himself and his employer, with the knowledge and approval of the employer." Id. at 479. It is ordinarily a question of fact as to whether an employee has departed from his employment in such a manner that his subsequent injury is not causally related to it. Id.

When a slip and fall on a public sidewalk occurs in front of an employer's building, it has been held not to be compensable. In Flodin v. Henry & Wright Mfg. Co., 131 Conn. 244 (1944), the Court held that the public sidewalk in front of the employer's factory was not part of the "premises" and the employee's necessary use thereof to reach his place of employment, though contemplated by his employer, was in the exercise of a right enjoyed by all members of the general public and did not involve risks pertaining to his employment, so that the accidental injury resulting from a fall on such sidewalk while icy did not "arise out of or in the course of employment" within the meaning of the Workers' Compensation Act. Id. at 247-48.

When an employee sustains injuries from an assault by a fellow employee, in order to be deemed compensable the reason for the assault must be a quarrel having its origin from the work itself, not simply an assault that occurred at work, but which was the result of a personal quarrel.. Willis v. Taylor & Fenn Co, 137 Conn. 626 (1951). There must be some reasonable connection between the injury suffered and the employment or the conditions under which it is pursued. For example, if an employee is assaulted while defending his employer or his employer's property or interests, or when the assault was incidental to some duty of the employment, the injuries suffered by the employee arise out of the employment. Id. When the animosity or dispute that culminates in an assault is imported into the employment, the assault does not arise out of the employment. Fair v. People's Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535 (1988).