Williams v. ISD 2396

Williams v. ISD 2396, No. WC15-5820 (February 16, 2016)

The employer and insurer appealed the compensation judge’s conclusion that the employee’s injury arose out of her employment. The employee was a custodian at the school district. Part of her duties on the day of the injury involved setting up the gym for a basketball game, which included a number of tasks. The employee testified she and her co-worker felt “rushed” to get things into place. The bleacher steps were made of plywood and were both higher and deeper than the ordinary stairway. The employee had finished installing the handrails on one side of the bleachers and was returning to the gym floor when her left foot hit the metal lip of a step. The employee heard a pop and felt a sudden onset of pain in her left foot, which were revealed to have been a fracture. The employee agreed in testimony that there was nothing defective about the step, she noticed no water or other substances on it, and she was not carrying anything at the time of the injury. The employee testified she had performed that duty a number of times without sustaining injury, and acknowledged that when her children were students at the school she would ascend and descend the stairs at sporting events.

The employer and insurer denied liability, arguing the injury did not arise out of her employment. The employer and insurer contended that the compensation judge failed to apply Dykhoff. In analogy, the appellants argued the employee failed to prove there was a greater risk of injury inherent to the bleachers when the employee traversed them at work than they would have to the general public. They argued the injury occurred after they had been set up and were “ready for public use.” The court then went on to discuss Hohlt and pointed out that a personal injury is compensable if the employee encounters an increased risk of injury on the employer’s premises and that it is irrelevant that the members of the general public encounter the same risk.  

The court found in this case that the employee was brought to the risk by her employment, not by her activities of daily living. The court also pointed out that the steps on the bleachers were significantly deeper and higher than those she encountered in daily life. They found that to the extent the descending and ascending bleachers bears some unusual risk of misstep and of injury, the employee’s risk was such increased by the duties of her employment. The court of appeals affirmed.