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Justin Tharpe was employed by Arcata Forest Products. He alleged injury occurred to his right ankle on January 30, 2023 during his uncompensated lunch break while he was visiting his friend, Joe Zavala, on a nearby, but non-adjacent, property known as the Figas Construction property.

Applicant contended that the location of the alleged injury, i.e., the Figas Construction property, is controlled by Arcata Forest Products, where: 1) applicant’s boss, Robert Figas, owns both properties, and 2) Arcata Forest Products occasionally uses or stores a piece of equipment at the Figas Construction property.

However, unrebutted evidence showed that Mr. Figas and his wife owned the Figas Construction property as a corporate entity separate from Arcata Forest Products. Robert Figas made this very clear during trial, stating that “Figas Construction[] is a separate business owned by [him] and his wife ¶…as a limited liability company….That property is not owned by Arcata Forest Products.”

The WCJ ordered that applicant take nothing by way of his claim. Reconsideration of this order was denied in the panel decision of Tharp v Arcata Forest Products -ADJ17462575 (January 2024).

Applicant’s argument raises the widely recognized workers’ compensation rule known as the “going and coming rule,” which precludes compensation for injuries suffered during the course of a local commute to a fixed place of business at fixed hours in the absence of certain exceptional circumstances. However, injuries sustained by an employee while going to or coming from the place of work upon premises “owned or controlled” by the employer are generally deemed to have arisen out of and in the course of the employment. (California Casualty Indem. Exchange v. IndustrialAcci. Com. (1943) 21 Cal.2d 751, 757-758 [8 Cal.Comp.Cases 55]; see also Gonzalez v. Dept. of Indus. Rels. (February 8, 2019, ADJ11121478) [2019 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 52, *9].)

Here, applicant contends that the place of injury, namely, the Figas Construction property, was owned or controlled by his employer such that his injury occurred on employment premises and would therefore be deemed AOE/COE.

The fact that Arcata Forest Products may have brought (or stored) a piece of equipment at the Figas location does not satisfy the premises line rule.

At trial, applicant testified that Mr. Figas stored machines near Mr. Zavala’s trailer on the Figas Construction property. However, Mr. Zavala testified that he did “not think Arcata Forest Products stores anything on the lot where he lives except for perhaps a water truck.” Mr. Figas and Ms. Moug testified that Arcata Forest Products did not use that property for equipment storage.

After considering the discrepancies in the testimony, the WCJ ultimately concluded: “Even if Arcata Forest Products occasionally stored a piece of equipment on Figas Construction property or loaned a forklift to Figas Construction that is not a sufficient nexus between the two…properties to warrant calling the Figas location the premises of Arcata Forest Products.”

The WCAB panel agreed “with the WCJ that the occasional presence of a piece of equipment does not establish that Arcata Forest Products ‘controlled’ the Figas property for the purposes of the premises line rule.

“In summary, applicant asks us to extend the premises line rule to circumstances where he has offered no evidence that he suffered an injury at a time that the employer-employee relationship existed. Applicant simply did not present sufficient evidence that he injured himself on premises controlled or owned by his employer, and we decline to extend the premises line rule to the facts of this case.”