Renwick v. Halverson and Blaiser Group

Renwick v. Halverson and Blaiser Group, No. WC13-5613 (Apr. 10, 2014)

This case involves an employee who worked as a residential caretaker for the employer and worked irregular hours depending on need.

According to the facts of this case, there had been a substantial snowfall in the City of St. Paul, which required the employee to park in the apartment building’s tenant lot due to a snow emergency. Because he was a residential caretaker the employee worked and lived in the same building.

On the morning of December 10, 2012, the employee picked up discarded curtain rods on his way to start his car and move it to Grand Avenue.  The employee started his car in order to warm it up and then dumped the curtain rods in the dumpster and while returning to his car, slipped and fell in the parking lot.  He injured his right lower extremity as a result of the fall.  The employee’s injury was not seen, but the manager who was shoveling snow in the front of the building heard his scream and came to assist the employee, who was eventually taken by ambulance to United Hospital.

The employer and insurer denied primary liability alleging that the injury did not rise out of and in the course and scope of his employment.  The compensation judge found that it did at trial.  Prior to the hearing, the parties did stipulate that if the injury was compensable, the employee would be entitled to benefits alleged, including wage loss and medical expenses.  The self-insured employer alleged that this case was much like the Gillund case, because the employee essentially worked at his home office.  The Gillund case was a home office case in which the employee then travelled throughout northern Minnesota, as an insurance property loss examiner.  The employee in that case had to shovel snow in order to get his company vehicle out of his driveway.

The compensation court disagreed with the applicability of Gillund and instead found that this is an injury that occurred in a parking lot maintained by the employer for the benefit of the apartment tenants.  It was the employer’s premise even if it was also part of the residence, due to the employee being a residential caretaker.  The employee’s services as caretaker were required at that location.

Moreover, at the time of the injury, the employee actually was performing duties related to his job as residential caretaker by removing debris and rods and discarding them into the dumpster.  The employee was essentially exposed to a risk or hazard while walking across the icy, rutted parking lot in order to perform his duties.

The court disagreed with the assertion that the employee was on a personal errand, given that he was instead removing debris that was not personal to him, but part of his employment obligations.  Based on the substantial evidence rule, the employee’s claim was affirmed.