Groetsch v. Kemps, LLC

Groetsch v. Kemps, LLC, No. WC15-5844  (April 4, 2016)

The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals upheld the determination of a Gillette injury arising out of the workplace after the employee, who worked as a line picker at a milk packaging plant, reported sharp pain in his right forearm after 10 years of “repeated picking of the units.” This was diagnosed as lateral epicondylitis and the employer admitted liability.

A follow-up visit was scheduled on the employee’s day off. The employee drove from his house to his girlfriends, then made his way toward the hospital. At an intersection near the hospital, the employee was stopped at a red light when he was rear-ended by another vehicle. The damage to the employee’s vehicle was between $10,000 and $13,000.  He received an injury to his neck and back as a result. An MRI showed posterior disk bulging and a herniated disk.

The Compensation judge found in favor of the employee on the carpel tunnel based on Gillette grounds, and that the vehicular accident was in the course of employment. She awarded the employee temporary total disability for about five months and temporary partial thereafter through the date of the hearing and continuing.

The Court found that because the medical opinions provided adequate foundation, there was sufficient information to establish a Gillette injury in this case. Two doctors assessed the injury as being caused by the employee’s repetitive job tasks with sufficient information relied upon.

The Court then found the “dual purpose trip” analysis appropriate for the automobile accident. Minnesota Courts have long upheld that injuries which occur while traveling to and from the hospital to tend to a work injury arise from the course of employment.  The question  here is whether his trip to his girlfriend’s house prior to the injury changed the nature of his travels to a personal trip or something other than a trip to the hospital.  Courts apply the test through a lenses dictating that “if the trip involves performance of a service for the employer which would have called the trip to be taken by someone even if it had not coincided with the personal journey,”  it arises out of employment and liability attaches. Citing Larson, Arthur et. Al; Larson’s Workers Compensation Law, §16.01 (Matthew Bender rev. ed. 2015).

While the employer argued that under this test, a deviation of driving to Chicago would be incorporated into the liability of the employer, the court held that such a judgment is to be made on a case-by-case basis whether that deviation is so substantial as to obviate the business purpose of the trip.