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Pensacola Christian College v. Bruhn

Florida Court of Appeal, First District

December 30, 2011

PENSACOLA CHRISTIAN COLLEGE and Robert Maddox, Appellants,
v.
Joyanne BRUHN, Appellee.

Page 1047

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1048

Peter S. Roumbos and Joseph A. Kopacz of Young, Bill, Roumbos & Boles, P.A., Pensacola, for Appellants.

James M. Burns, Pensacola, for Appellee.

PER CURIAM.

The appellants, Pensacola Christian College (PCC) and Robert Maddox, appeal a non-final order in favor of the appellee, Joyanne Bruhn, upon a finding that PCC and Maddox were not entitled to worker's compensation immunity as a matter of law. Because the trial court erred in determining that PCC was not Bruhn's employer and that her injury was not sustained in the course and scope of employment, we reverse.

In the fall of 2004, Joyanne Bruhn was a full-time student at PCC, living on campus. On December 16, 2004, Bruhn entered into a Special Hourly Work Contract with PCC. One of the contract terms was that the " [s]tudent agrees to work where needed, and understands that this contract may be assigned to an affiliate of PCC, if needed." Under the terms of the contract, Bruhn was assigned to work at A Beka Books, Inc. (" A Beka Books" ), an affiliate of PCC located on the PCC campus.

On the day of the accident, Bruhn had taken a lunch break and was returning to work at A Beka Books when the bicycle she was riding collided with a PCC van driven by Maddox, a student-employee of PCC. The accident occurred at an intersection on the PCC campus in front of the PCC Administration Building. Following the accident, Tim Tate, a risk manager for PCC, submitted a workers' compensation claim on behalf of Bruhn. In his deposition, Tate stated that Bruhn was covered by PCC's workers' compensation policy because " [s]he was an employee who sustained an injury during a reportable period[,]" explaining that " [s]he was off the clock but she was on the company premises returning to work." Tate also explained that PCC purchased one corporate policy of workers' compensation insurance for all its subsidiaries and affiliates, including A Beka Books, Inc. and A Beka Services, Ltd.

On November 17, 2009, Bruhn filed suit against PCC and Maddox seeking damages for injuries she sustained in the 2006 accident, alleging that Maddox was negligent and PCC was vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee. On November 10, 2010, PCC and Maddox filed a motion for summary judgment asserting workers' compensation immunity because PCC was Bruhn's employer at the time of the injury and Bruhn was injured on PCC's premises. After hearing argument from the parties, the trial court issued an order denying the motion for summary judgment, concluding that Bruhn was not an employee of PCC, but was instead an employee of A Beka Books:

Page 1049

The Court finds that although the Special hourly Work Contract was executed by Plaintiff and Pensacola Christian College, Plaintiff's employer was A Beka Services, Ltd. and Plaintiff worked at the Distribution Center of A Beka, Inc. These are separate legal entities and the Court finds that Pensacola Christian College was not Defendant's employer.

The trial court also ruled that even if PCC were Bruhn's employer, the injury did not occur in the course of her employment because the injury did not occur on the premises of A Beka Books:

Even if Pensacola Christian College is to be considered Plaintiff's employer, the question arises as to whether the entire college campus which contains multiple free standing buildings and parking lots for those buildings constitutes " on the employer's premises" for the purpose of determining that the workers' compensation immunity applies to Pensacola Christian College.... The premises of A Beka Books, Inc. Distribution Center do not encompass the entire campus of Pensacola Christian College.

In this appeal of the trial court's non-final order, our scope of review is limited to determining whether the trial court erred in denying summary judgment based on its conclusion that PCC and Maddox are not entitled to worker's compensation immunity. Fla. R.App. P. ...


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