Comp allowed for representative's fall during unpaid lunch break
Case name: Mintz v. Verizon Wireless, No. COA12-306 (N.C. Ct. App. 11/20/12).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a representative was entitled to benefits for the aggravation of arthritis in her knee.
What it means: In North Carolina, if a worker is injured on premises controlled by the employer on a lunch break, whether or not the break is paid, the circumstances are within the course of employment.
Summary: A customer care representative worked on the second floor of an office building. Her employer did not own the building, and there were several other businesses in the building that provided services to the employer. The general public did not have access to the building without permission. During the representative's hour-long lunch break, which the employer required she take, she walked through the hallways of the first floor of the building for exercise. After 30 minutes of walking, she went to the restroom on the first floor. As she was leaving the restroom and walking toward the elevator to return to her cubicle, she slipped on a piece of ice from the ice machine located outside the restroom and fell on her knee. Five years prior to the fall, she has surgery on the knee. Her doctor stated that the fall materially aggravated the arthritis in her knee. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to benefits.
The court concluded that the representative's injury arose out of her employment. A causal relationship existed because she was injured due to a condition in her workplace. She was injured in a common area of the building. Employees were encouraged to go to the first floor because the cafeteria was located there.
The court rejected the employer's argument that the representative's injury did not occur in the course of her employment. Although her injury occurred during a paid break, it happened during the hours of employment. The employer was the main tenant in the building and "essentially controlled" the premises. The court explained that the representative was injured while returning to her cubicle after engaging in an activity she undertook for her personal comfort.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 11, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications