Waters v. Indiana State University, No. 93A02-1101-EX-78 (Ind. Ct. App. 08/04/11).
Ruling: The Indiana Court of Appeals held that a worker's injuries sustained while exiting from a booth at an employer-sponsored luncheon arose out of her employment.
What it means: In Indiana, in determining whether an injury is compensable, the issue is not whether the injury resulted from an everyday activity (as opposed to an unusual event) but whether the injury was unexpected.
Summary: A worker for a university made custom draperies for residence halls. She was obese, suffered from diabetes, and walked with a cane due to problems with her knees. She attended an employee appreciation luncheon during work hours at a cafeteria on the university campus. At the conclusion of the luncheon, she had difficulty exiting the booth she sat in. She rocked back and forth to gain the momentum to stand and twisted her body to exit the booth. The worker felt a pop and pain in the upper part of her leg. The next day, she sought medical treatment, which revealed a fractured femur. She underwent surgery. The worker sought benefits. The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the worker's injury arose out of her employment.
The parties did not dispute whether the worker's injury occurred in the course of her employment but argued whether her injury arose out of her employment. The court found that even if the worker's preexisting conditions made her more susceptible to being injured, a condition of her work environment, the booth, also contributed to her injuries. The court noted that no evidence showed that her injury was caused by her preexisting conditions. Medical reports attributed her injury to her exit from the booth.
One doctor opined that the injury was not work-related because it occurred during a "routine activity of daily living." The court said the doctor's report was based on a "flawed premise." In determining whether an injury is compensable, it must be considered whether the injury itself was unexpected. The court said that although the worker was performing a personal function when she was injured, it was incidental to her employment.
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September 19, 2011
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