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Woman who broke ankle on stairs at work stripped of comp benefits

Woman who broke ankle on stairs at work stripped of comp benefits

A Minnesota worker who fractured her ankle while descending a staircase isn't entitled to workers compensation benefits if her workplace didn't present an increased risk of injury, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Carol Kainz, who worked as a licensed practical nurse for Arrowhead Senior Living Community at the St. Michael's Health and Rehabilitation Center in Virginia, Minnesota, fractured her ankle while walking down a flight of stairs to retrieve supplies from the basement on Sept. 17, 2011, according to court records.

Arrowhead Senior Living Community denied Ms. Kainz's claim for workers compensation benefits, saying her injury didn't arise within the course and scope of her employment, records show.

A compensation judge later awarded benefits to Ms. Kainz, and the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed.

However, on Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the award of benefits and remanded the case to the compensation judge.

The compensation judge originally had found that Ms. Kainz's injury occurred on the sixth of 12 steps, where there was no handrail present, but also found that handrails extended "about two-thirds" of the way down the staircase, court records show.

“Both findings cannot be true,” according to the Supreme Court ruling, which also states that photographic evidence “conclusively shows” the handrails extend all the way down the staircase.

According to the ruling, the “increased risk test” requires employees to prove their workplace exposed them to an increased risk of injury, or a “special hazard” they wouldn't face in everyday life.

While Ms. Kainz testified that the staircase was “kind of steep,” evidence in the record doesn't prove the stairs are steep enough to present a special hazard, according the Supreme Court ruling.

Since the decision by the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals was "manifestly contrary to the evidence, we remand to the compensation judge for further proceedings consistent with this order,” the ruling states.

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