Kainz v. Arrowhead Senior Living Cmty.

Kainz v. Arrowhead Senior Living Cmty., No. WC12-5511 (W.C.C.A. April 1, 2013)

This case is similar to Dykhoff, and the court applied similar reasoning.  The Employee here was a licensed practical nurse who worked at a senior living community.  Her job included dispensing medications.  On the date of injury, the Employee left the main floor to retrieve medications from a locked cage in the basement.  She had to walk down two flights of stairs.  While going down the second flight of stairs, the Employee twisted her ankle, causing an avulsion fracture.  The Employer and Insurer denied the injury on the basis that it did not arise out of and in the course and scope of her employment.

The compensation judge found the injury did arise out of and in the course and scope of employment.  The judge found that the general public was excluded from using that stairway and that there was no hand rails on the portion of the stairway where the employee twisted her ankle.  So, the judge used the increased risk test.

On appeal, the W.C.C.A. affirmed.  As in Dykhoff, the court noted the two elements of “arising out of” and “in the course and scope” of employment.  The court noted that the compensation judge analyzed the claim under the increased risk test, but the court noted that this is not the only test used in Minnesota to analyze the arising out of element.  On its review, the court did not necessarily use the increased risk test and said that because the “arising out of” element is unique in each case, no absolute rule can be established.   In most cases, the employee is covered by the workers’ compensation act “while engaged in, on, or about the premises where the employee’s services require the employee’s presence as a part of that service at the time of injury.”  The court noted that here, the “in the course of” element was very strong.  Given the strong “in the course of element”, together with the unexplained nature of the injury, the compensation judge did not err by finding that the ankle injury arose out of and in the course and scope of her employment.

So the court was essentially saying that, if the employee was at work and doing activities required by her job, and suffers an unexplained injury, it is work-related.  The court drew a distinction between idiopathic injuries and unexplained injuries.  With an unexplained injury, if it occurs during working hours and on the employer’s premises, even if it could have easily occurred elsewhere, it is compensable.