Legal Updates

ARISING OUT OF AND IN THE COURSE OF— Hohlt v. University of Minnesota (W.C.C.A. 02/03/16)

The employee worked as a painter for the University of Minnesota.  On the date of injury, she parked at the Oak Street Ramp, a facility owned and operated by the University of Minnesota.  The ramp was available to University employees and the public.  The ramp was located less than three blocks from the building where the employee was working.  At the end of work, the employee punched out and was walking to the parking lot at the Oak Street Ramp.  Her entire route was on U of M campus premises. 

The weather was bad and had been snowing and sleeting that day.  The employee slipped and fell at an intersection with an incline suffering work injuries.  Primary liability was denied for the injury per Dykhoff.

The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals reversed the compensation judge’s finding that the injury did not arise out of her employment with the employer.  The court distinguished the Dykhoff case in that there was no incline, the floor was not wet, and there was no debris on the floor in Dykhoff. 

The W.C.C.A. noted that arising out of means that there must be some causal connection between the injury and the employment.  The employment must:

1. Expose the employee to a hazard which originates on the premises as a part of the working environment; or

2. Particularly expose the employee to an external hazard whereby the employee is subjected to a greater risk than had he been pursuing ordinary personal affairs (special hazard). 

The W.C.C.A. held that the special risk or special hazard doctrine applies only in those cases in which the employee is injured off the employer’s premises.

If the employee suffers a work injury on the work premises, the employee need only establish an increased risk of injury from the employment.  In other words, there is an increased risk of injury on the employee’s premises because the employee is an employee and the injury follows from that risk.  The court held it is irrelevant if members of the general public might encounter the same risk because they were not brought to that risk by the job. 

The court cited Foley v. Honeywell which held that an injury on the employee’s premises arises out of the employment if it occurs as a result of an increased risk of injury while the employee is going from one part of the premises of the employer to another, even if it occurs on a public street.

This case has been appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

ARISING OUT OF AND IN THE COURSE OF—Shire v. Rosemount Inc., 875 N.W. 2nd 289 (Minn. 2016)

This case involves an interpretation of Minn. Stat. §176.021 which contains an exclusion from workers’ compensation coverage for employee’s who participate in a “voluntary recreational program”.

In this case, the employee attended an annual employee recognition event, which was deemed to be voluntary by the employer. However, if the employee elected not to attend this event, he/she would not receive any pay and he would have to use vacation time.

The employee was injured at the event while participating in laser tag event.

The court found that the employee had sustained a compensable work injury. The court held that the employee sponsored event was not voluntary as the employee’s options were limited to:

1. Attending the program and getting paid; or

2. Not attending the program and forfeiting pay or benefits.

A recreational program sponsored by the employer is not “voluntary” when the employee risks forfeiting pay or benefits if he/she elects not to attend the program.

The court further held that even though the employee “voluntarily” participated in the laser tag, the injury was still compensable. The court distinguished a term “program” which is a collection of activities versus an individual activity within the program.