Mary Suter was employed by Manpower, a temporary employment agency, assigned to work at the Illinois Department of Insurance (the “Department”). The Department, along with other state agencies, leased office space at a building in Springfield, Illinois. The landlord of the building was required to provide parking spaces for several hundred state employee vehicles.

The building manager assigned Suter a parking spot in one of the ten parking lots allotted to State of Illinois employees. These lots were not available to the general public. Suter’s supervisor, a state employee, directed her to inquire with the building manager about parking.

The accident occurred one morning as claimant arrived for work. As she exited her car, she slipped on ice, landing on pavement with her back and left arm. She immediately felt severe pain in her left arm and told her supervisor about the incident.

Nature of Injury Sustained

Claimant was diagnosed with highly comminuted intra-articular left distal radius and ulna fractures; the bones in her left forearm were broken into several pieces. She underwent surgery to repair the bones nine days after the accident. Approximately three months after the accident, she was released to work.

Worker' Compensation Claim Filed

Claimant filed a workers’ compensation claim naming Manpower as a loaning employer and the State of Illinois as a borrowing employer. The arbitrator denied Suter’s workers' comp claim finding that the parking space was neither provided by Manpower nor the State of Illinois, and therefore, Suter’s injuries did not arise out of and were not in the course of her employment. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (first level of appeal) and the circuit court (second level of appeal) subsequently affirmed the arbitrator’s initial ruling. The State of Illinois was dismissed as a party in the circuit court proceedings as the court did not have jurisdiction over the State. Suter then appealed to the Fourth District Appellate Court with Manpower as the sole respondent. In reversing the lower court’s decisions, and awarding claimant benefits, the Appellate Court reasoned as follows:

In Illinois, when a loaning employer lends a worker to the borrowing employer, the worker becomes an employee of the borrowing employer. However, when the borrowed employee suffers a compensable injury and the borrowing employer does not pay the benefits owed, the loaning employer is also fully liable on the benefits. In this case, even though the State of Illinois as the borrowing employer was no longer a party, Manpower remained liable to Suter for any compensable injuries as the loaning employer.

The Proof Required

To recover workers' compensation under the Act, a claimant must prove that her accidental injuries both arose out of and occurred in the course of her employment. Injuries sustained on an employer’s premises or sustained within a reasonable time before or after work are generally considered in the course of employment. Furthermore, under the Illinois parking lot exception, courts allow recovery when the employee is injured by a hazardous condition in a parking lot provided by and under the control of the employer. The parking lot is considered part of the employer’s premises for the purposes of the “in the course of” element. It is irrelevant whether the employer actually owns the lot because the employee is subject to dangers on the property to which the general public is not.

Injury Occurred in the Course of Employment

The appellate court held that Suter’s injury occurred in the course of her employment under the parking lot exception. The State’s lease with the owner of the office building required the building to provide several hundred parking spaces for State employees, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The court held that the uncontroverted evidence in the case established that Suter was a State employee that slipped and fell in a parking lot provided by the State, through its lease with the building, for the exclusive use of state employees. She was therefore on the employer’s premises when accidentally injured and her injuries became compensable.

Injury Arose Out of Risk Associated with Employment

To prove the second element of a compensable workers’ compensation injury, the “arising out of” element, the claimant must show that there is a reasonable inference that the slip and fall was a result of a risk associated with her employment. In Suter, the appellate court ruled that the undisputed evidence showed the claimant slipped on ice on the employer’s premises shortly after arriving for work. Therefore, the court held Suter’s right to workers’ compensation benefits under the “arising out of” element was established as a matter of law. Suter thus established both elements of a compensable workers’ compensation claim.

Suter v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2013 IL App. (4th) 130049WC