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Former employee presses ahead with workers' compensation lawsuit

Many Philadelphia workers have likely been asked by their employer to attend a meeting nearby but away from their typical place of business. What would the employer do and what are its responsibilities if an employee is injured on the way to that meeting? A workers' compensation case involving a former Noodles & Co. employee provides some answers.

One day in 2008, a Noodles employee received notice that there would be a business meeting at her superior's home after work. According to the evidence, this was not unheard of; Noodles & Co. did occasionally hold meetings at locations besides company restaurants. On her way to the meeting, the employee was involved in a traffic accident, suffering injuries and requiring medical care exceeding $250,000.

The woman sued for the cost of her treatment and her lost income. She received some reimbursement, but she and her attorney believed that Noodles & Co. and its insurer acted improperly in the case in attempting to sidestep responsibility. So she filed a second suit under workers' compensation laws, alleging in part that certain witnesses lied by downplaying the business aspects of the 2008 meeting and instead wrongly portraying it as a party or celebration.

The trial court granted Noodles & Co.'s and its insurer's motion to dismiss the case. But an appellate court reversed, noting that defense attorneys had counseled the Noodles & Co. supervisor on the benefits of depicting the meeting as one of pleasure, not business.

The appellate court's decision only means that the former employee's suit can go forward, not that she has won a final decision. Even so, it demonstrates that workers who are injured on the job may have to fight vigorously to defend their rights under the law and receive the compensation they deserve.

Source: Star Tribune, "Judges reinstate Noodles & Co. worker's comp suit," Dan Browning, Mar. 22, 2012.

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