You Be the Judge

Did Broken Leg Arise Out of Employment?

An off-the-clock injury in extreme weather conditions raises questions of compensability.
By: | April 18, 2016

A nursing house supervisor for Christus Schumpert Highland Hospital commuted to work from another city. Her duties included coordinating nursing services and taking calls from those who were unable to come to work. Her normal working hours were 4 p.m. until midnight.

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One afternoon while the supervisor was working, an ice storm rolled in. Many nurses were unable to report to work because of hazardous road conditions, and the hospital stopped accepting patients. A second supervisor arrived to relieve the supervisor after midnight but advised her that the parking lot was icy. The supervisor called hospital security but was told that they didn’t have much sand to treat the parking lot.

The supervisor clocked out at 1:40 a.m. but was unable to leave because the police had closed the roads. She decided to stay in the hospital until conditions improved, first lying on a couch in the waiting room and then trying to sleep in an unoccupied patient room, but she never really fell asleep.

The supervisor got up at 5 a.m., went to the nursing director’s office, and started answering the phone, but did not clock in. A third supervisor arrived to start her shift shortly after 8 a.m. and strongly advised the supervisor not to get on the roads.

The second supervisor offered to let the supervisor to stay at her house until the weather conditions improved, and the supervisor agreed. They exited the hospital and walked to the parking lot where they had parked, which was also open to the public. The second supervisor described the parking lot as “completely icy.”

Rather than going straight to the second supervisor’s vehicle, the supervisor detoured to her own car to drop off a bag she was carrying. She put the bag in her car and shut the door, but when she turned to go to the second supervisor’s car, she slipped on the ice and fell, breaking her leg and sustaining other injuries.

The supervisor filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the hospital denied. The workers’ compensation judge found that the injury was not compensable. The supervisor appealed.

Was the WCJ correct denying the supervisor’s claim?

  • A. No. The risk of injury from walking in the parking lot was greater for the supervisor than for other members of the public.
  • B. Yes. The ice storm was not the kind of condition that subjected the supervisor to any greater risk than the general public.
  • C. No. The supervisor’s presence at the hospital benefited her employer.

How the Court Ruled

A is incorrect. The court pointed out that the slip and fall occurred in a parking lot designated for employees but also open to the general public.

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C is incorrect. The court found that the supervisor was not benefiting the hospital’s business operation by placing her bag in her car before leaving with the second supervisor.

B is correct. In Lafitte-Nesom v. Christus Schumpert Highland, No. 50,496-WCA (La. Ct. App. 02/24/16), the Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the supervisor did not establish that her accident arose out of and in the course of her employment.

Although the hazard of slipping on ice was evident, the court found the ice storm was not the kind of condition that subjected an employee like the supervisor to any greater risk than the general public.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]