Woman Injured in Office Kitchen Won’t Get Workers’ Compensation

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Monday, June 11, 2012

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who fell and injured her hip, leg and pelvis in her office’s kitchen is not eligible for workers’ compensation because it is conceivable that the woman could have suffered a similar injury at home. Specifically, the top court found that the injured worker could have fallen while making coffee in her “normal nonemployment life” and cannot be compensated for her damages as a result.

The worker was an employee of a hospital chain’s billing department. She went into her office’s kitchen area, which included a coffee machine. The coffee pot was almost empty, and office policy required the person who emptied the carafe to make a fresh pot. The woman did so, but fell to the ground moments later, suffering fractures in her right hip and pelvis, left leg and lower back.

She later filed for workers’ compensation benefits but the administrative law judge rejected her claim, saying she could “have been exposed to the same hazard or risk in her normal (nonemployment) life” if she makes coffee at home. On appeal, Missouri’s Labor and Industrial Relations Commission overturned the denial. The commission noted that making coffee was “incidental to and related to her employment,” since doing so was an office rule.

But the Supreme Court disagreed. The top court said that whether the coffee-making task was a part of the worker’s duties was not relevant. The question, the decision said, was whether the injury could have occurred outside of work. Since that was theoretically possible, the woman is not entitled to workers’ compensation, the majority found.

Source: Legal Newsline, “Mo. SC: Employee not entitled to benefits for fall in office kitchen,” Jessica M. Karmasek, June 4, 2012

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