Required or Simply Permitted to Live on Premises? The Distinction May Render the Action Within the Purview of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

In Kerker v. Maple View Dairy, Inc., the decedent died in a fire while he slept in housing accommodations provided by Maple View.  Maple View hired the decedent pursuant to a written farm work agreement.  The English version of the agreement stated that the decedent was required to sleep on the premises as a condition of employment.  The Spanish version of the agreement, which the decedent purportedly signed, contemplated sleeping arrangements, but did not state that it was a requirement of the job.  The court stated, “if the employee is required to live on the premises either by virtue of the contract of employment or by reason of the nature of the employment, any injury resulting from normal activities on the premises is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Law .”  “On the other hand, if the employee is on the premises solely out of the kindness of the employer, injuries are not compensable” under the workers’ compensation law, and thus not barred by Workers’ Compensation Law §11.  Here, the court could not determine as a matter of law that the decedent was required to sleep on the premises as part of his job, thus it was not clear that he was injured during the course of his employment.  Accordingly, the court denied Maple View’s motion to dismiss the complaint on the basis of the Workers’ Compensation Bar.

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If you have any questions about this post or WCM’s workers’ compensation practice, please contact Cheryl Fuchs at cfuchs@wcmlaw.com