A Virginia court affirmed the decision of the Workers Compensation Commission in the case of a woman who suffered from a foot injury while climbing the stairs at work. The woman worked as a server at a restaurant where she was on her feet constantly when she began to experience some significant pain in her foot. While she was walking up a flight of stairs one day holding between 30 and 40 pounds of food and dishes, her foot rolled in. Although she managed to prevent herself from falling backwards down the stairs and therefore escaping more severe injuries, she did suffer from a partial tear in her tendon and a partial ligament tear.
To treat these injuries she needed time off of work, surgery, and physical therapy. At first look, this seems like exactly the type of situation that gives rise to a Virginia workers compensation claim. However, the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission denied the request, saying that it was not completely clear that her injury resulted from being at work. An appeals court agreed, saying that she could have been injured on any flight of stairs and that there were no special conditions at work that caused the injury to happen at that location.
Looking at the problem from the other perspective, there is a good argument to be made that her injury was the result or repetitive stress or a number of smaller injuries suffered at work that built up over time. However, this case establishes that more evidence is needed to tie the injury to the employment to qualify for workers compensation.
Source: HR BLR, “Virginia courts consider FMLA, worker’s comp issues,” Sara Sakagami, Jan. 20, 2013.