Case name: Dominion Virginia Power and Dominion Resources, Inc. v. Pulley, No. 0866-10-1 (Va. Ct. App. 06/07/11).
Ruling: The Virginia Court of Appeals sent an instructor's case back to the workers' compensation commission to determine whether her injury arose out of her employment.
What it means: In Virginia, in applying the actual risk test, the commission should determine whether a worker's risk of injury was peculiar to her job and not one which the general public was equally exposed.
Summary: A customer service instructor went to a credit union affiliated with her employer during her afternoon break. The credit union was located in a building attached to her workplace. New doors had been installed in the building that had a raised lip. Cautionary signs were placed near the new doors to warn people of the new raised threshold. As the instructor returned from the credit union and entered her place of work, she tripped over the raised threshold and ripped her shoe. The instructor fell forward, hit her head, and lost consciousness. She filed a claim for benefits for injuries to her knees, right hip, right shoulder, back, head, and face. The workers' compensation commission held that her injury arose out of her employment. The Virginia Court of Appeals sent the case back to the commission to apply the actual risk test.
To determine whether a worker's injury arose out of her employment, the actual risk test is applied. Under the test, the employment must expose the worker to the particular danger causing the injury, notwithstanding the public's general exposure to similar risks. The court said the commission failed to apply the test but relied on previous cases involving workers tripping over door thresholds. The commission did not make findings regarding whether the instructor's risk of injury was peculiar to her job and not one which the general public was exposed. The court explained that there is no rule that thresholds of a certain height satisfy the actual risk test.
A dissenting judge opined that the commission properly applied the test by citing prior decisions.
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July 25, 2011
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