In a decision of May 29, 2019 (No. 18-16183), the Court of Cassation ruled that an heart attack occurring on arrival in the company should be considered as an accident at work, despite the presence of prior symptoms when the journey from home to work.
According to Article L411-1 of the Social Security Code, an accident at work is an accident "caused by the fact or on the occasion of work".
This implies that the accident occurred while the employee was under the authority of the employer.
Thus, once the accident occurred at the time and place of work, the employee benefits from a presumption of liability for the accident at work.
In this case, the difficulty was that the symptoms of discomfort had arisen prior to the entry of the employee into the company. There was therefore the question of the application of the presumption of imputability.
2) Facts and procedure.
In the present case, an employee had died of a heart attack while he had just arrived at his place of work.
The employer however disputed the assumption of responsibility of the accident under the professional legislation.
Disappointed by the Bordeaux Court of Appeal, he appealed on points of law.
In support of his appeal, the appellant argued that the presumption of liability for the accident at work was not applicable to the case at hand for two reasons:
• the injury did not occur suddenly at the time and place of work, the first symptoms being felt before the arrival of the employee in the company;
• the employee was not under his authority at the time of the accident, since he had gone directly to the break room and had not started his work.
It was necessary to show that the discomfort felt by the employee was not an accident at work but rather a commuting accident, a situation more favorable for the employer.
3) Solution of the Court of Cassation.
The High Court dismisses the arguments raised by the applicant and has concluded that it is possible to rely on the presumption of imputability of the accident at work.
The Court of Cassation has indeed held that the accident had occurred at the time and place of work.
The employee "took his position even though he did not go immediately to the store" and was therefore under the authority of the employer at the time of the accident.
The meeting of these two elements (occurrence of the accident at the time and place of work, under the authority of the employer) authorizes the Court of Cassation to retain the professional nature of the accident.
She thus deduced that "the existence of symptoms prior to discomfort during the journey between home and the workplace is not likely to characterize a commuting accident".
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c. cass. May 29, 2019, No. 18-16183
Frédéric CHHUM, avocat and Member of the Paris Bar Council (Conseil de l’ordre des avocats de Paris)
CHHUM AVOCATS (Paris, Nantes, Lille)
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