MO Workers Comp Update – Industrial Commission Upholds Defense Award for Unexplained Fall
On August 17, 2018, the Missouri Industrial Commission upheld a defense award based on an unexplained fall. The case, entitled Juanita Wall v. Bass Pro, can be read by clicking here.
In this case, the claimant fell while walking down an aisle at Bass Pro. The accident was recorded on video, and the claimant suffered injuries as a result of the fall.
Employer obtained a recorded statement in which the employee stated “I just fell”. Claimant could not identify any defect on the floor or any employment-related factor that caused her to fall.
The ALJ and the Commission found the claim to be non-compensable, citing the following in support of the decision to award no benefits:
“The credible evidence showed that Claimant fell while walking on a flat concrete surface. This was a condition Claimant regularly encountered in her regular, non-employment life. In fact, Claimant even admitted that she had previously shopped in the Bass Pro fishing department during off work hours…the flat concrete surface where Claimant fell was a risk or hazard to which she was equally exposed in her non-employment life. The fact that Claimant happened to fall while on duty and inside the Bass Pro Shops store, does not make the fall compensable. There must be something particular about the location of the fall that is unique to her work and it created a unique exposure to that risk. Here, there is no unique or specific risk attributable to Ms. Wall’s employment. She simply fell on a flat concrete surface. In these circumstances, the fall is not compensable and the claim must be denied.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THIS CASE?
Always get a recorded statement as soon as possible. This will give you the most accurate version of events before a claimant can be coached by his or her attorney. In that recorded statement, make sure that the claimant is asked about the actual cause of the fall, whether there were any defects on the floor, and whether he or she was carrying anything at the time of the fall. All of these factors will play into whether the claim is or is not compensable.
This analysis may or may not apply to injuries that occur on stairs because there is some dispute at the appellate level as to whether stairs, alone, constitute a a risk or hazard of employment.
If you have any specific cases or situations where this decision might apply, please feel free to call or email.