The Law Office of Kurt H King

June 14, 2012

No Work Comp for “Equally Exposed” Injury

Employee on the clock making coffee at the office kitchen.  Turns and twists her ankle, “causing her foot to fall off her shoe.”  The fall fractures her pelvis resulting in a trip to the Emergency Room and conservative treatment including physical therapy but no surgery.  Injury reported and Missouri Workers’ Compensation claim followed.  Claim denied at trial by ALJ, reversed and claim granted on appeal to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, and now the Supreme Court of Missouri reverses the Commission to again deny the claim.  These are the facts of the May 29, 2012, Opinion SC92113 by the Missouri Supreme Court in Johme v. St. John’s Mercy Healthcare.

This case turns on Missouri statute 287.020.3(2)(b)  which, in the words of the Court, “instructs that Johme’s injury ‘shall be deemed to arise out of and in the course of [her] employment only if . . . it [did] not come from a hazard or risk unrelated to [her] employment to which [she] would have been equally exposed outside of and unrelated to [her] employment in [her] normal employment life.‘ ”   More simply put, no compensation for job injuries due to causes to which the employee is equally exposed off the job AND which are unrelated to her employment.

Prior to the 2005 amendment of section 287.020  to override previous case law, Missouri courts permitted just such claims as this by employee Johme.  Back then the injured employee was entitled to recover workers’ compensation even if  the act that caused the injury involved risks to which one would be equally exposed outside of work.  The rationale was that the act causing injury would not have occurred if the employee were not at work.  For example of law prior to the 2005 amendment, a worker succeeded on her workers’ compensation claim for injury that resulted as she  fell and injured her ankle while carrying her lunch in a break room at work while walking across a clear floor area, without apparent cause.  Drews v. TWA, 984 S.W.2d 512 (Mo. banc 1999).

This Supreme Court oponion in Johme v. St. John’s Mercy Healthcare illustrates a shift in law favoring the employer and workers’ compensation insurance companies. 

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

www.kurthking.com

Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury, Trial and Appellate Litigation

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for Debtors, Family Law including Divorce, Modification, Paternity, Child Custody, Support, & Visitation

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