Friday, May 25, 2018

Published:09/30/2014

Dorris was injured while crossing the street in between the employer’s two office buildings in order for Dorris to inspect new offices in one of the buildings. She tripped and was injured in her fall. Employer argued that Dorris could not recover because:

There was insufficient evidence to support that Dorris’ injury was caused by her tripping on a crack in the street. Dorris could have tripped on anything.

The injury was not in the course and scope of Dorris’ employment because she was crossing a public street when she was injured.

The injury was not in the course and scope of Dorris’ employment because she was Dorris was equally exposed to the risk of tripping in the street in her normal, nonemployment life.

The court rejected employer’s contentions and upheld the workers’ compensation award in favor of Dorris because:

Nothing in the worker’s compensation award requires a claimant to testify to the exact cause of the accident, and the commission is able to consider the evidence as a whole and rely on reasonable inferences. There was sufficient evidence in the record that Dorris tripped while crossing the street, the street had many serious cracks, and she was paying attention to traffic.

Despite the fact the accident occurred on a public street, the accident was in the course and scope of Dorris’ employment because it occurred while Dorris was crossing the street at the instruction of her employer to inspect offices in a different building. Dorris was “on the clock” and her supervisor requested her to make the trip.

The argument that the accident occurred because of a risk to which Dorris was equally exposed while not working fails because it does not satisfy a strict construction of the statute. Section 287.020.3 defines when an injury occurs in the course and scope of employment. Here, because there was an unsafe condition, the cracked street, that Dorris faced because of her employment. Her job required her to be in the unsafe location, and this satisfies the strict construction of course and scope of employment under § 287.020.3.