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Hammond v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.

Decided: April 20, 1970.

HONORA HAMMOND, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE GREAT ATLANTIC & PACIFIC TEA COMPANY, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall and Schettino. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Proctor, J.

Proctor

In this workmen's compensation case, the sole issue is whether petitioner is entitled to recover for injuries she received when she fell at a point near her employer's premises shortly after leaving work. Both the Division of Workmen's Compensation and the County Court held that petitioner's injuries were not compensable since the accident did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. N.J.S.A. 34:15-7. The Appellate Division affirmed in an unreported per curiam opinion. We granted certification. 55 N.J. 161 (1969).

The material facts are undisputed. Petitioner, Honora Hammond, was employed as an executive secretary by the respondent, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. She had held the position for nineteen years. Respondent's building in which petitioner worked is on the corner of Sherman Avenue and East Peddie Street in Newark. The building's entrance is on Sherman Avenue which runs north and south. East Peddie Street runs east and west. The respondent maintains a parking lot for the use of its employees on the south side of East Peddie Street, about 300 feet to the east of the intersection of Sherman Avenue and East Peddie Street. After leaving work, employees using the lot would normally walk north on Sherman Avenue to the intersection and then east on East Peddie Street, across

Sherman Avenue, past a diner and a rag factory, and continue on the same side of East Peddie Street until they reached the lot. Both East Peddie Street and its adjoining sidewalk were in "very bad condition" with "broken sidewalks" and "slabs of concrete missing." According to the respondent's superintendent, it was a typical run-down factory neighborhood.

Mrs. Hammond relied on her husband or public transportation to get to work. Transportation from work for four years preceding her accident was furnished by a woman co-employee who parked her car in the lot provided by the respondent. Mrs. Hammond rarely walked to the lot herself because of the poor condition of the sidewalk and because of a limp which gave her difficulty in walking. The limp was the result of a preexisting arthritic hip which had left one leg an inch and a half shorter than the other.*fn1 She generally left respondent's building, walked north on the sidewalk of Sherman Avenue, crossed East Peddie Street and some adjoining railroad tracks, and finally crossed Sherman Avenue to a spot where she waited to be picked up by her co-employee. The distance from respondent's building to the point where she waited for her ride was substantially less than the distance from the building to the parking lot.

On December 12, 1966, Mrs. Hammond left work at the end of the day and proceeded toward the corner where she usually waited to be picked up. While en route she fell

near the railroad tracks and incurred the injuries for which she now claims compensation.

The judge of compensation and the county court judge both reasoned that the "going and coming" rule, which denies compensation for injuries incurred while traveling to or from work, barred petitioner's recovery. The Appellate Division affirmed, reasoning that petitioner could only recover if she were injured while en route to the parking lot; it was conceded that she was not.

Under our Workmen's Compensation Act, the basic test for compensability is whether an injury arises out of and in the course of employment. An accident arises out of employment when it results from risks reasonably incidental to the employment. Geltman v. Reliable Linen & Supply Co., 128 N.J.L. 443, 446 (E. & A. 1942). An accident arises in the course of employment when "it occurs while the employee is doing what a man so employed may reasonably do within a time during which he is employed, and at a place where he may reasonably be during that time." Bryant Adm'x. v. Fissell, 84 N.J.L. 72, 77 (Sup. Ct. 1913). Out of the basic test for compensability a subordinate doctrine was developed by the courts known as the "going and coming" rule. See Gullo v. American Lead Pencil Co., 119 N.J.L. 484 (E. & A. 1938). This rule, which denies compensation for accidents occurring while the employee is going to or coming from work, produced many harsh results which led courts to carve out numerous exceptions to it. These exceptions include situations where the employee is on a special mission for his employer, Bobertz v. Board of Education, 135 N.J.L. 555 (E. & A. 1947), where the employer furnishes transportation to and from the place of employment, Rubeo v. Arthur McMullen Co., 117 N.J.L. 574, 579 (E. & A. 1937), where the use of an automobile or other form of vehicle is required in the performance of the contract of service, Demerest v. Guild, 114 N.J.L. 472, 476 (E. & A. 1935), and where the employer pays for the employee's transportation, Filson v. Bell

Telephone Laboratories, Inc., 82 N.J. Super. 185 (App. Div. 1964). Even these exceptions have been broadly construed to comport with the liberal philosophy behind the enactment of the Workmen's Compensation Act. See, e.g., Ricciardi v. Damar Products Co., 45 N.J. 54 (1965); Lehigh Navigation Coal Co. v. McGonnell, 120 N.J.L. 428 (Sup. Ct. 1938), aff'd o.b. 121 N.J.L. 583 (E. & A. 1939). Thus, in Ricciardi, supra, an accident occurring on the way home from a company picnic was held to be compensable within the special mission exception. And in Lehigh, supra, compensation was allowed when an employee was killed after his ...


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