Bryant v. Midwest Staff Solutions, Inc., No. 99,913 (Kan. 07/29/11).
Ruling: The Kansas Supreme Court held that a technician's injury arose out of his employment and that he was entitled to benefits.
What it means: In Kansas, in determining when an injury arose out of the employment, the focus should be on whether the activity that resulted in the injury was connected to the performance of the job.
A service technician had suffered a back injury while jumping from a boat onto a dock. While working six years later, he stooped over to get a tool from his tool bag and felt a pop or snap when he twisted back to work on the equipment. He experienced sudden, severe pain in his lower back that became significantly worse the next day. Two months later, he leaned over to do welding and felt an explosive increase in pain. He consulted with doctors who recommended surgery. After surgery, he returned to work as a dispatcher, but his wages were lowered, and his working hours were reduced. He sought benefits. The Kansas Supreme Court held that the technician was entitled to benefits.
The employer argued that the technician already suffered from back pain and the work incidents only intensified it. The court said that the work incidents changed the physical structure of the technician's body, causing damage to it. His prior back condition was relatively stable and controlled by intermittent treatment. The work incident necessitated surgery.
The court explained that there is no bright-line test for whether an injury arises out of employment. Twisting and bending are daily activities for workers and nonworkers. Looking at the overall context of what the technician was doing when he was injured, the court concluded that he was not engaged in the normal activities of daily living when he reached for his tool belt or when he bent down to do a welding task.
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September 15, 2011
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