One of the most common injuries in the workplace is a fall injury, which makes the staircase one of the more dangerous areas at work. Recently, a Minnesota worker was injured while walking down the stairs, and she filed for workers’ compensation. The case went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court before it was ultimately decided. See if you can guess how the case played out.
Here’s a recap of the events that occurred that led up to Laurie Roller-Dick’s injury compensation claim:
While at work, Roller-Dick attempted to travel down a staircase. She was holding a plant from her desk and had her purse “hanging from the crook of her elbow.” Because of the items she was carrying, she was unable to grab the handrail to help her safely navigate the stairs. Roller-Dick tripped while she was walking, fell down the stairs and broke her ankle. She then filed for workers’ compensation, because the injury occurred while she was on the clock at work.
The case was ruled on by a workers’ compensation judge, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Minnesota Supreme Court. How do you think each party ruled?
Here’s how each court ruled:
The Work Comp Judge – If you assumed that Roller-Dick’s initial claim got denied, especially since we know that the case went all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, you are right. The workers’ compensation judge ruled that because there was no work-related reason as to why Roller-Dick was unable to hold the handrail, than her injuries did not arise out of her employment, and thus her claim was denied.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals – Here’s where things get interesting. The WCCA disagreed with the lower judge, saying the previous judge applied the incorrect legal test. They argued that the correct test was “whether the stairs posed an ‘increased’ risk as opposed to a ‘neutral’ risk.” They ruled that because the stairs posed an increased risk of injury, and Roller-Dick was within the scope of her employment when she descended them, then she was entitled to workers’ compensation.
Minnesota Supreme Court – The case went all the way up to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled on the case earlier this month. In their decision, the MSC agreed with the WCCA, saying that Roller-Dick’s injuries satisfied the “requisite causal connection between the workplace and her injury.” They argued that the circumstances of the day (her holding a plant and her purse), “created an increased risk that Roller-Dick would fall and injure herself on the stairs, thus satisfying the requisite causal connection between the workplace and her injury.” In the minority opinion, a dissenting judge wrote that the staircase complied with all relevant safety standards, and thus it should not be considered a hazard with more than a neutral risk.
Were you able to correctly guess how the case played out? As you can see, these cases are complex and often come down to the smallest details. If you want to give yourself the best chance to frame your case such that you’ll win your claim award, you’ll want to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer like Dean Margolis. To learn more about what he can do for you, contact his office today.
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