Case name: CJW Medical Center v. Wallace, No. 2542-11-2 (Va. Ct. App. 07/31/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that a nurse was not entitled to benefits for the injury she sustained when she reached into her handbag.
What it means:
In Virginia, workers who bring their personal tools to work with their employer's knowledge, encouragement, or acquiescence may have compensable claims if the tools injure them.
Summary: A nurse carried a handbag with her everyday to work at a hospital. In the handbag, she kept her purse, wallet, lotion, and other personal items. She also used it to carry things she used on the job such as a stethoscope, scissors, and pens. The employer did not require her to bring these items to work. While reaching into her handbag to retrieve a pen, she scratched her finger on the handbag's fastener. The scratch resembled a "paper cut," so she saw no need to bandage it. The scratch later became infected and required medical treatment. She sought workers' compensation benefits. The Virginia Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The hospital argued that she failed to show her injury arose out of her employment because the hazard causing the injury was not a condition of the employment. The hospital did not require, encourage, or know of her use of the handbag. The court agreed, pointing out that the nurse did not show that using her personal handbag was a requirement of her position. The cause of the injury was not the pen but the handbag. The court pointed out that it was not the legislature's intent to "make the employer an insurer against all accidental injuries" on the job.
The court also explained that the case did not implicate the personal comfort doctrine. The doctrine could not establish the arising out of requirement in cases where an employee is injured by a defective personal item brought to work without the knowledge, approval, or acquiescence of the employer.
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October 4, 2012
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