Legal Updates

INTERVENORS—Sumner v. Jim Lupient Infiniti, 865 N.W. 2nd 706 (Minn. 2015)

The employee commenced a cause of action against the employer. Two intervenors filed Petitions to Intervene in the preceding’s but failed to attend the hearing before compensation judge.

The Supreme Court held that Minn. Stat. §176.361 subd. 4, unequivocally requires and intervenors attendance at court preceding’s unless a stipulation has been signed and filed or the intervenor’s right to reimbursement has otherwise been established. Further, failure to appear at court preceding’s shall result in a denial of the intervenor’s claim.

The court noted that for purposes of statute, attend and appear are synonymous.

ARISING OUT OF AND IN THE COURSE OF— Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Association (W.C.C.A. 02/05/16)

Employee was a registered nurse.  At the time of the injury, the employee was in report giving the oncoming shift nurse’s information regarding patients.

There was a code called which the employee rushed to.  It turned out to be a “mock code,” which required the employee’s response as if in an emergency situation. 

After the code was over, the employee chose to take the stairs to her work station, rather than the elevator.  She “rushed up” the stairs to return to the nursing station as soon as possible to complete report when she fell injuring her shoulder.

There is no evidence that there was debris or moisture on the steps.  The lighting was adequate. Primary liability was denied based upon a lack of increased risk per Dykhoff. 

At Hearing, the compensation judge found the employee was not a credible witness when she stated she felt pressured to rush up the stairs because of hospital policy regarding overtime.  The judge found that that there was no arising out of and denied the claim.

The W.C.C.A. reversed the findings of the compensation judge and found the injury compensable.

The W.C.C.A. noted that there was no contention of defective stairs.  The issue was whether the employee’s employment increased her risk of injury.  There was a finding that the employee was “rushing up the stairs” because she felt pressure to do so because of hospital policy discouraging overtime.  The W.C.C.A. professed to defer to the compensation judge’s credibility determination.  However, they noted the employee claimed that she was fatigued due to her work schedule and had heavy legs and secondly that she felt she was rushed to complete her job and was injured as a result.

The court noted that when fatigue arises from the employee’s work activities resulting in injury, fatigue meets the criteria of increased risk to satisfy the arising out of standard.  Likewise, hurrying or rushing on the job is found to be “arising out of” if it results in injury to the employee. The evidence was uncontroverted that the employee was suffering from fatigue and hurrying.

This case has been appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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.