Kristel Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Association

Kristel Kubis v. Community Memorial Hospital Association, No. A16-0361 (Minn. June 28, 2017).

This very interesting case became even more interesting after the Supreme Court overturned the full five judge panel of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals when it held that the W.C.C.A. erred by substituting its own view of the evidence to overturn the Compensation Judge’s determination that the employee did not establish her claim to benefits by a preponderance of the evidence.

The W.C.C.A. had decided to reverse Judge Baumgarth’s Findings and Order on whether the employee’s injury arose out of employment. In this case, there was uncontroverted testimony from the employee that she “felt rushed to report patients’ status to the nurses on the next shift” (emphasis added) while working as a registered nurse and fell while ascending the stairs, injuring her shoulder.

The W.C.C.A. did not disturb the findings of the compensation judge on the employee’s alleged fatigue and her alleged hurrying due to overtime policies because the employer witnesses disputed these allegations and the compensation judge believed employer witnesses over the employee. But, the W.C.C.A. noted that important facts established at hearing were uncontroverted: “the employee was running up the stairs at the time of her injury because it would be faster” and that even though the overtime rationale for rushing was dismissed, “the employer did not dispute the second motivation for rushing.” Because her job required her to report to the nurses on the next shift regarding patient care and because she felt “rushed” and utilized the steps instead of the elevator because it would be faster, her fall on the steps “alone establishes that the employee was hurrying to complete a task which arose from her employment.”

Therefore, the W.C.C.A. reversed the finding that the injury did not arise out of employment by the compensation judge and the injury is compensable. The causal connection was the hurrying to report to the next shift which wasn’t disputed by employer and supported by the record as a whole even though the judge didn’t make a specific finding on that.

However, Minnesota’s highest court determined that “[N]o credible evidence in the record supports the notion that [Kubis] was pressured to ‘rush’ to report to the next shift.” The Court continued, “[A]lthough the W.C.C.A. may have believed that there were two distinct motivations for hurrying, the compensation judge correctly recognized that the only uncontradicted evidence in the record was that Kubis was concerned about incurring overtime, an explanation that the compensation judge rejected.” In short, the W.C.C.A. should have, but did not, affirm the compensation judge’s decision.

Justices Lillehaug, McKeig, and Chutich dissented.