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Niles v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

October 10, 2019

Deanne Niles, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, Respondent, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Intervenor.

          Submitted February 22, 2019

          On Petition for Review of an Order of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services Compensation Review Board (CRB-32-18)

          David M. Snyder, with whom Kevin H. Stillman, was on the brief, for petitioner.

          Stacy L. Anderson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A. Racine, Attorney General, Loren L. Alikhan, Solicitor General, and Caroline S. Van Zile, Deputy Solicitor General, filed a statement in lieu of a brief, for respondent.

          Sarah O. Rollman for intervenor.

          Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, and Fisher and Easterly, [*] Associate Judges.

          BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, CHIEF JUDGE

         On a rainy morning, petitioner Deanne Niles was walking across the College Park Metro station platform on her way to work when she slipped and fell. Alleging injuries to her ankle, shoulder, and knee, Ms. Niles, an administrative assistant for intervenor Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), filed a claim for benefits under the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act (the "Act").[1] An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied the claim after concluding that her injuries were noncompensable, citing the well-established proposition that injuries sustained while commuting to and from work fall outside the Act's coverage. See Grayson v. District of Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 516 A.2d 909, 911 (D.C. 1986). The Compensation Review Board ("CRB") of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services affirmed. Now on petition for review, Ms. Niles argues that, because WMATA encourages its employees to ride the Metro transit system and imposes work-related rules and obligations on its employees when they do (whether they are on or off duty), her injuries are compensable under the Act. We affirm.

         I.

         At the time of her injury, Ms. Niles lived in Lanham, Maryland and worked in WMATA's headquarters in downtown D.C. On her typical commute to work, Ms. Niles would drive from her home to the College Park Metro station where she would park her car for the day. She would then ride the Metrorail to the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro stop and, from there, walk to the nearby WMATA office. WMATA allows its employees to ride the Metrorail and Metrobus for free, but employees are personally responsible for paying for parking at Metro stations. On May 5, 2017, rain caused the College Park Metro platform to become slick. After parking her car in the adjacent lot that morning, Ms. Niles walked across the platform, where she slipped and fell, sustaining injuries to her ankle, shoulder, and knee.

         Ms. Niles filed a claim for benefits under the Act, seeking temporary total disability benefits and reimbursement for medical treatment relating to her injuries. At the evidentiary hearing before the ALJ, Ms. Niles gave uncontested testimony that WMATA encourages its employees to use the Metro system and allows them to ride free of charge. Ms. Niles also testified that she had no work-related duties at the College Park Metro station on the day of her injury. She also acknowledged that, despite the fare subsidy and WMATA's encouragement that its employees use the Metro, Metro use by employees was voluntary. The ALJ denied Ms. Niles's claim, ruling that it was barred by the "going and coming" rule, which provides that "injuries sustained off the work premises, while enroute to or from work, do not fall within the category of injuries 'in the course of employment.'" McKinley v. District of Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 696 A.2d 1377, 1383 (D.C. 1997) (quoting Grayson, 516 A.2d at 911).

         The CRB reviewed and affirmed the ALJ's order. The CRB concluded that, because WMATA did not require Ms. Niles to use the Metrorail, Ms. Niles's commute on the morning of her injury was personal and unrelated to her employment. It also concluded that the ALJ correctly applied the "going and coming" rule in denying Ms. Niles's claim. This petition for review followed.

         II.

         We will affirm the CRB's decision unless it is "[a]rbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." D.C. Code § 2-510(a)(3)(A) (2012 Repl.); Mexicano v. District of Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 806 A.2d 198, 203 (D.C. 2002). "We must determine (1) whether the agency made a finding of fact on each material contested issue of fact; (2) whether substantial evidence in the record supports each finding; and (3) whether the conclusions of law follow rationally from the findings." George Washington Univ. v. District of Columbia Bd. of Zoning Adjustment, 831 A.2d 921, 931 (D.C. 2003). "[A]lthough we accord weight to the ...


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