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Workplace Injuries and the “Premises Line Rule”

If you’re injured while in the course and scope of your employment, you are typically prevented from bringing an action against your employer and are instead subject to the “exclusive remedy” of recovering within the Workers’ Compensation system.  “Where an employee is injured in the course and scope of his or her employment, workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy of the employee and his or her dependents against the employer. (Lab. Code, §§ 3600, subd. (a), 3602.)

Over the years, cases were brought by employees injured commuting to and from work.  This brought about the “going and coming rule.”

Under the judicially created “‘going and coming rule,’” an employee’s injury while commuting to and from work is not compensable under the workers’ compensation system absent “special or extraordinary circumstances.” (Hinojosa v. Workmen’s Comp. Appeals Bd. (1972) 8 Cal.3d 150, 153,.)

Over time, this rule “became the subject of significant criticism and the California Supreme Court described it as a ‘“slippery concept,”’ ‘“riddled with exceptions,”’ and difficult to apply uniformly.” (Wright v. State of California (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 1218, 1230.)  Such criticism led, among other things, to the premises line rule.

“In an effort to create a ‘sharp line of demarcation’ as to when the employee’s commute terminates and the course of employment commences, courts adopted the premises line rule, which provides that the employment relationship generally commences once the employee enters the employer’s premises.” (Wright, supra, 233 Cal.App.4th at p. 1231.) “Prior to entry[,] the going and coming rule ordinarily precludes recovery [of workers’ compensation benefits]; after entry, injury is generally presumed compensable as arising in the course of employment.” (General Ins. Co. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1976) 16 Cal.3d 595, 598.) The same rule applies to determine the end of the course of employment: generally, once employment has begun, it continues, and injury is presumed to be compensable, until the employee leaves the employer’s premises. (Makins v. Industrial Accident Com. (1926) 198 Cal. 698, 701)

A recent case has brought this premises line rule to the forefront.  That case is Jones v. The Regents of the University of California, 2023 Cal. App. LEXIS 917.

Jones was an employee at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) campus. On the day of the incident, at the end of her workday, she exited her office suite at UCI’s science library, walked her bike a short distance to the bike path on Outer Ring Road, mounted her bike, and began riding toward her home.  After riding for about 10 seconds, Jones reached a trench, cordoned off with orange posts and caution tape.  Upon noticing the obstacle, she swerved and attempted to brake but fell off her bike and sustained injuries.

She brought an action against UCI for dangerous condition of public property under Government Code § 835.  UCI moved for summary judgment arguing Jones’ sole remedy was through the Workers’ Compensation System.  UCI argued that Jones was still within the “course and scope” of her employment under the premises line rule.

The trial Court granted summary judgment on behalf of UCI.  Jones appealed, arguing that the premises line rule should not apply because: (1) She was leaving work, rather than arriving; (2) her means of commute was not employer-designated, and her route was not reserved for employees but also used by students and the general public; and (3) UCI’s campus was large. She claimed the University could not carry its burden because it failed to present evidence regarding the campus’s size and attempted no “demarcation of where the premises line should reasonably be placed.” Jones v. The Regents of the University of California, 2023 Cal. App. LEXIS 917, *9

The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding none of these three arguments persuasive, holding:

[1] Workers’ compensation exclusivity under Lab. Code, §§ 3600, subd. (a), 3602, barred tort claims against an employer because, pursuant to the premises line rule, injuries sustained by an employee while riding a bicycle home from work, just after leaving the employee’s workstation and on property owned by the employer, occurred in the course and scope of employment as a matter of law;

[2] Because case law stating the course of employment included a reasonable margin of time and space referred simply to travel between the employee’s workstation and the point of entry of the employer’s premises, these cases did not provide authority for a subjective interpretation of “reasonable distance” as a substitute for the boundary line.

If you or a loved one has been injured at or near your workplace, call the experienced attorneys at Heiting & Irwin.  We have decades of experience handling injury claims including those determined to fall under the jurisdiction of Workers’ Compensation as well as those injuries that fall outside of the Workers’ Compensation system.  Call us today for a free consultation at (951) 682-6400 or visit us online at

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