Workers' Compensation Case Watch
In Williams v. CJ Designs, Inc., VA00001427406 (July 8, 2019), the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission found that a claim arose out of the employment when an employee was injured while straightening up after bending from the waist with nothing in her hands.
The claimant, a Certified Nursing Assistant, was helping a patient into a car when she injured her back. The claimant bent straight forward from her waist, with her arms in a U-shape so she could scoop them under the patient’s legs and pivot the patient’s feet in front of her. She had already touched the patient’s feet, did not have anything in her hands, and was straightening from the waist when she felt a pop in her back. The claimant confirmed that she had performed this action many times and that it was not in any way awkward or unusual. The Deputy Commissioner found that the claimant’s injury did not arise out of the employment.
The Commission REVERSED, finding that the claimant was required to bend straight from the waist because the patient’s wheelchair was next to the vehicle. The Commission stated “[s]he was not simply bending or arising from a bent position. Rather, the manner in which she was required to perform the task was sufficiently awkward to arise out of her employment. Moreover, we find that the motions the claimant described were all part of one continuous event that led to her back strain.”
Commissioner Rapaport dissented, citing the long line of cases finding that a “simple act of bending” is not a risk of the employment. Commissioner Rapaport found that the record did not support the majority's contention that the placement of the wheelchair next to the vehicle caused or contributed to the claimant’s injury. Commissioner Rapaport concluded that “there was no condition of the workplace or additional exertion necessitated by work, aside from the usual act of rising from a bent position, that caused the claimant’s injury.”
For more information about the "arising out of" standard, see The 2018 Virginia Workers' Compensation Guide, page 30, or contact our workers' compensation practice group attorneys. Email us to request a copy.
Jessica Hacker Trivizas is a litigator who focuses her practice on workers’ compensation, defending employers and carriers at the trial and appellate levels. She works with insurance carriers, third-party administrators, and self-insureds. Jessica worked on some of the largest settlements in the country, including the historic NFL Concussion Settlement Program, the BP Oil Spill settlement, and the Reglan/MCP Settlement Program. Her background on these mass claims resolution programs gives her unique insight into the work of claims adjusters.