On October 26, 2016, the South Carolina Supreme Court released its decision in Nathalie Davaut v. University of South Carolina, where the Court overturned the denial of her workers’ compensation benefits for an injury when she left work. The Supreme Court revisited a darling of insurance companies called the “going and coming rule.” Insurance companies love it because it usually prevents benefits when an employee gets hurt going to or coming from work.
But in this case, the Supreme Court decided the rule didn’t prevent Ms. Davaut’s benefits. Let’s take a closer look why.
The Facts of the Case
Ms. Davaut worked as a professor at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. The night she got hurt, she reviewed resumes in the library in her role on a search committee to hire a new professor. She stayed until the library closed at 9 p.m. While walking to her car, she tried to cross a street, but got hit by another car.
Workers’ compensation insurance denied benefits. The workers’ compensation commission and two appeals courts found the going and coming rule justified the denial.
Fortunately, the South Carolina Supreme Court stepped in and fixed this injustice.
Supreme Court Reigns Supreme
The Supreme Court observed the going and coming rule actually has four exceptions to get benefits under a case called Sola:
- The employer provides transportation or pays wages for the time used in transportation.
- While going to or coming home from work, the employee has a work-related task to do.
- The way used is inherently dangerous and is either the only way there or built and maintained by the employer.
- The injury occurred at a place the employee had to use as a result of a stated or implied requirement to do the work.
The Supreme Court pointed out this case involved the last exception, and the Court dealt with it before to deny benefits in a case called Howell v. Pacific Columbia Mills. The Court found Howell inapplicable because that employee got hurt before she set foot on the employer’s property. Howell’s husband dropped her off on the street, where she got hit by a car. Thus, she couldn’t prove her job required her to cross the street where she got hit, as her husband could’ve let her off somewhere else.
Back to Davaut. Justice Kittredge, writing for a unanimous Court, declared a new rule in South Carolina to help employees like Davaut. It’s called the “divided premises rule,” also known as the “parking lot exception.” This rule gives employees benefits when they get hurt crossing a public street running through their employer’s property while taking a direct route between work and the parking lot.
The Court basically ruled the going and coming rule didn’t apply to this situation. It didn’t matter that the employer made no requirement for her to use the parking lot she walked toward. All that matters is that the employer allowed her to, and when she used it, she had to cross the street where she got hurt.
This decision brings our state in line with most others. Thankfully for Ms. Davaut, she gets benefits she needs—and deserves. Kudos to her lawyer for never giving up. And a respectful bow to the Supreme Court for proving its supremacy by doing the right, good, and human thing.
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
This case shows the importance of fighting for your rights when you are the victim of a work accident. If you get hurt seriously while going to or coming from work, remember you might well be entitled to benefits, no matter how confident the insurance company seems in denying them or how swiftly they deny them. Send us an email or start a live chat right where you are to start a conversation to see if we can help you with the complicated legal analysis to prove you should get vital workers’ compensation benefits.