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Dollar Tree manager who tripped over water containers due disability benefits

Dollar Tree manager who tripped over water containers due disability benefits

The manager of a Dollar Tree store in Virginia who tripped over a display of water containers suffered a compensable injury because the display was a workplace hazard, the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled.

Elizabeth A. Wilson worked as a manager for Dollar Tree Inc. in Altavista, Virginia, court records show. Ms. Wilson was closing out a store cash register toward the end of the day in October 2011 when she tripped over the display of one-gallon water containers that were stacked at the front of the register.

Ms. Wilson said she “grabbed the end of the register” to keep herself from falling and that, despite feeling “immediate pain,” she finished closing down the store that evening, according to records.

One week later, an MRI revealed “a non-displaced stress fracture at the left femoral neck and low grade stress reaction of the right femoral neck,” records show. Ms. Wilson underwent surgery to repair the fracture and her physician released her to return to light-duty work on Dec. 21, 2011.

Though she resumed earning her usual salary on Dec. 25, 2011, Ms. Wilson didn't return to work until Jan. 3, 2012, according to records. Her physician said she was free of all work restrictions as of March 13, 2012.

In February 2012, Ms. Wilson filed a claim with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission seeking temporary total disability benefits from the date of the accident in October 2011 through Dec. 28, 2011, as well as temporary partial disability benefits from Dec. 29, 2011, through March 12, 2012, records show.

A deputy commissioner denied her claim for benefits in August 2012, saying she “failed to meet her burden of establishing that her injury arose out of her employment,” according to records.

On appeal to the full commission, the decision was reversed and remanded, as “the water stack constituted a 'workplace hazard.'” Subsequently holding that Ms. Wilson suffered a compensable injury by accident, the deputy commissioner awarded her various periods of TTD and PTD benefits, records show.

Dollar Tree then appealed the decision, arguing that there was no evidence Ms. Wilson's injury arose out of her employment.

According to records, for an injury to be compensable under Virginia's Workers' Compensation Act, a worker must prove that an injury was caused by an accident, that it was sustained in the course of the employment and that it arose out of the employment.

On Dec. 2, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Wilson's injury arose out of her employment, as her “employment required her to maneuver around the water stack after closing out the register for the day.”

The ruling states that “the water stack, around which claimant was required to maneuver as a part of her employment, was peculiar to claimant's workplace and not common to the neighborhood,” and so it should be indentified as a “workplace hazard.”

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