Case name: Harris v. Peach County Board of Commissioners, No. A08A1846 (Ga. Ct. App. 02/11/09).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the administrative law judge's finding that a court custodian's injury arose out of and in the course of her employment when she bent over to pick up a pill from the floor.
What it means:
Although a claimant may be predisposed to injury due to her weight, an injury is work-related and compensable if she was carrying out her job duties at the time of the injury.
A courthouse custodian noticed a diuretic pill she had in her pocket was missing. When her supervisor spotted the pill on the ground, the claimant bent down to pick it up. Her knee gave out and she collapsed. The Georgia Court of Appeals found that when the claimant bent down to retrieve the pill, the pressure of her weight -- slightly less than 300 pounds -- injured her knee. The Court of Appeals said that picking up a foreign object from the floor, even if it was her own, was among the "peculiar duties of [her] job as a custodian." The employer argued that because of her weight, the claimant was equally exposed to injury whether on or off the job.
The court determined the claimant was performing her job duties at the time of the accident. The evidence showed that bending down to remove an object from the courthouse floor was incidental to her employment. It pointed out that her supervisor required and expected her to remove the pill from the floor, regardless of whether it was her pill. The activity was not independent of her employment relationship and arose out of and in the course of her employment.
The court also noted that even though the claimant's obesity was part of the reason she was injured, it did not require a different result. The court reasoned that all workers bring certain infirmities to the job, and the employer must take employees as it finds them and "assumes the risk of a diseased condition aggravated by injury."
March 23, 2009
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