Gregory Gritz vs. State of Minn. Dept. of Human Svcs., et al.

Gregory Gritz vs. State of Minn. Dept. of Human Svcs., et al. (No. WC 19-6321) WCCA Feb. 4, 2020)

Arising Out of/ Hegnemuhl Case

On May 10, 2018 Employee was attending a mandatory training session as a human services technician for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. He was walking down a flight of stairs with another co-worker. The stairs were dry, clear of debris, and had handrails. As the employee was walking down from the landing onto the next set of ten steps, he lost his balance, tried to grab onto the handrail and missed, and fell down the ten steps. His co-worker went to notify personnel. The employee sustained injuries to his shoulder and neck. He ultimately needed a neck fusion.

The parties stipulated that the injury arose out of the course and scope of the employment and that the medical treatment was reasonable and necessary, but the issue was whether stairs are inherently dangerous.

The compensation judge relied on the Forrest decision in which the WCCA held that using stairs at work constituted an increased risk in and of itself such that an injury caused by the use of stairs is compensable.

The Employer appealed. WCCA affirmed.

The WCCA held the self-insured employer is correct in its assertion that the use of stairs is no more dangerous at work than anywhere else., but the test is not whether the general public was also exposed to the risk, but whether the employee was exposed to the risk because of employment.

We agree that employers cannot eliminate every possible risk of injury.  Yet, an injury does not need to be preventable to be compensable.

The use of stairs creates an increased risk of injury.  Because the employee’s injury was caused by the use of stairs while he was working, the compensation judge was correct.

Takeaway

Roller-Dick and Forrest are still the precedent. Stairs are inherently dangerous and the WCCA is sticking to this.