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Custodian’s fall on vinyl-covered stairs not compensable


A custodian’s injuries from a fall on a staircase at work are not compensable because she failed to show they were a unique hazard, a Virginia appellate court held Tuesday.

In Amaya-Hernandez v. NSR Solutions Inc., the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the state’s Workers Compensation Commission’s decision to deny her claim for benefits.

Mercedes Amaya-Hernandez worked as a custodian at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In December 2019, she was descending a set of stairs to remove trash. The stairs were concrete with a pink plastic covering, and she said the plastic surface on the last step caused her to slip and fall and led her to undergo a right-shoulder replacement and physical therapy. She filed a claim for medical and temporary disability benefits.

A workers compensation commissioner denied the claim after finding that she failed to prove the accident arose out of her employment. The majority of the full commission affirmed the decision, holding that Ms. Amaya-Hernandez failed to explain how the vinyl covering increased her risk of suffering from a fall.

She appealed, arguing that the covering on the stairs created a “unique hazard” that put her at risk of an injury, and that therefore her fall arose out of her employment.

The appellate court disagreed, noting that the state of Virginia employs the “actual risk test” that requires proof that the employment exposed a worker to a particular danger. Since Ms. Amaya-Hernandez did not present evidence that the vinyl made the stairs more slippery or hazardous than other staircases, the court held that she did not suffer a compensable injury when she fell at work.





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