The Supreme Court of Missouri recently heard oral arguments for two important workers’ compensation cases. Both of those cases seem poised to continue to restrict the rights of injured workers by limiting the concept of a workplace injury. This would make it increasingly more difficult for injured workers in Missouri to get the compensation they deserve.
Supreme Court of Missouri Hears Two Workers’ Compensation Cases
The cases have very different fact patterns, but one critically similar theme.
Schoen v. Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center involves a hospital nurse who started having breathing problems at work after her employer used ant spray near the air conditioning units. Her employer sent her to a doctor who treated her respiratory problems. During the visit, though, the doctor accidentally tripped the nurse, apparently while trying to ward off another patient’s dog, who had gotten away. The nurse fell and hurt her knees, hips, lower back, and neck. She filed a workers’ compensation claim against the Second Injury Fund for the injuries sustained in the fall.
The other case is Annayeva v. SAB of the TSD of the City of St. Louis. We actually covered this case, earlier in our blog. In it, a high school teacher slipped and fell in the hallway of her school on her way to her classroom to start the day. The hallway had been wet, icy, and dirty from foot traffic dragging in what was left of a recent snowfall. She filed a workers’ compensation claim that was denied for what an appeals court would later describe as “arbitrary” reasons.
The Question in Common: Where Does the Workplace End?
Aside from the fact that both victims tripped or slipped and got hurt, there are few factual similarities between the two cases. However, there is a crucial theme that connects them: In both cases, the employer put the victim in a position where they ended up getting hurt, off the clock.
The high school teacher had not clocked in, but her employer required her to walk over a dangerously slippery floor to get to work. The nurse was only at that doctor’s office because her employer told her to go there.
That is why the Supreme Court of Missouri elected to hear oral arguments for the cases together, and is why the court may combine the cases in its forthcoming opinion.
Court Seems Poised to Keep Restricting Workers’ Compensation Rights
The cases fall within the line of sight of an especially crippling decision from 2009, Miller v. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission.
In Miller, the Supreme Court of Missouri had decided that a highway construction worker was not entitled to workers’ compensation when he was walking on the job and his knee popped. The injury did not “arise out of employment” because people walk all the time, and nothing about walking was special to the hurt worker’s job.
In both Anneyeva and Schoen, the hurt workers tripped and fell, and were not even on the job at the time of the accident. It seems likely that the court will apply Miller and deny recovery.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
If you have been hurt in a workplace accident, the workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office can help. Contact them online or call their St. Joseph law office at (816) 875-9373.