This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).




Gail R. Johnson,


Walter N. Johnson,



Motel 6 G.P., Inc., et al.,


Filed November 12, 1996


Thoreen, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. EM 95-3713

Thomas L. Steffens, Janine L. LePage, R. Travis Brunson, Thomas L. Steffens & Associates, 300 Southdale Place, 3400 West 66th Street, Edina, MN 55435 (for Respondents)

Ronald Michaelson, Michaelson, Schroeder, Mandel, 3433 Broadway Street Northeast, Minneapolis, MN 55413 (for Respondents)

Michael S. Kreidler, Louise A. Behrendt, Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Brownson & Ballou, P.A., The Crossings, Suite 120, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2122 (for Appellants)

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.



Appellant Motel 6 challenges the district court's jurisdiction to consider respondents' tort claim, contending the Workers' Compensation Act provides respondents' exclusive remedy. We affirm.


In January 1993, respondent Gail R. Johnson worked as a front desk clerk for appellants Motel 6 G.P., Inc. and Motel 6 Operating L.P. (Motel 6). Motel 6 had hired Elwood Williams as a housekeeper in 1992. Although Motel 6 did not conduct any reference or background check on Williams, his criminal record included convictions for theft and burglary. Other employees described Williams as having "no respect for women at times." Shortly after being hired, Williams began making sexually explicit and inappropriate remarks to Johnson and her daughter, also a Motel 6 employee. Williams ceased harassing Johnson's daughter after the motel manager reprimanded him, but he continued harassing Johnson. Johnson reported Williams' conduct to her manager, but she dismissed it as "nothing serious." In December 1992, Williams exposed himself to Johnson while she was in the front office. Johnson also reported this incident to her manager.

On January 2, 1993, Johnson worked from 10:00 a.m. until approximately 5:30 a.m., January 3, in order to cover the front desk for employees who could not make it to work due to bad weather. When Johnson completed her shift, she was extremely tired and did not want to drive home in the icy conditions. After Johnson explained this situation to the managers, they suggested that she stay and sleep awhile at the motel before driving home. Between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., Williams raped Johnson.

Johnson and her husband brought this negligence action against Motel 6 in August 1994. The complaint alleged negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision of Williams, negligent key control, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. After extensive discovery, Motel 6 challenged the district court's subject matter jurisdiction in a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Johnson's tort claims were barred by the exclusive remedies provision of the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act, Minn. Stat. § 176.031 (1992) (the Act). The district court denied the motion. Motel 6 appeals the denial of summary judgment.


The denial of summary judgment based on subject matter jurisdiction is immediately appealable. McGowan v. Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 527 N.W.2d 830, 833 (Minn. 1995). Whether an employee's injuries arose out of and in the course of employment is a question of law that this court reviews de novo. United Fire & Cas. Co. v. Maw, 510 N.W.2d 241, 243 (Minn. App. 1994).

Under Minnesota law, every employer must pay workers' compensation benefits "in every case of personal injury or death of an employee arising out of and in the course of employment without regard to the question of negligence." Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1 (1992). The employee bears the burden of proving these facts. Id. "If an employee suffers a personal injury or death arising out of and in the course of her employment, the Act provides the employee's exclusive remedy" and the district court has no jurisdiction. McGowan, 527 N.W.2d at 833; see also Minn. Stat. § 176.031 (1992) (stating that "the liability of an employer prescribed by this chapter is exclusive").

The statute defines "personal injury" as:

injury arising out of and in the course of employment and includes personal injury caused by occupational disease; but does not cover an employee except while engaged in, on, or about the premises where the employee's service require the employee's presence as a part of such service at the time of the injury and during the hours of such service. * * * [Personal injury] shall not include an injury caused by the act of a third person or fellow employee intended to injure the employee because of personal reasons, and not directed against the employee as an employee, or because of the employment.

Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 16 (1992) (emphasis added). Thus, under this assault exception, an injury will not be covered by the Act, even if it arose out of and in the course of employment, if the perpetrator intentionally injured the employee for personal reasons rather than because of her status as an employee or because of her employment. Id.

Motel 6 contends the Act should provide the exclusive remedy here, because the rape occurred while Johnson was inseparably connected to her employment. See Dufloth v. City of Monticello, 308 Minn. 451, 451, 241 N.W.2d 645, 646 (1976) (Act applies if claimant was injured because she was at her employment, "in touch with associations and conditions inseparable from it") (quoting Petro v. Martin Baking Co., 239 Minn. 307, 311, 58 N.W. 731, 734 (1953), quoted in Parker v. Tharp, 409 N.W.2d 915, 917 (Minn. App. 1987). We disagree. When an assailant is motivated by personal animosity that arose from "circumstances wholly unconnected with the employment," the injury is not compensable under the Act. Hanson v. Robitshek-Schneider Co., 209 Minn. 596, 600, 297 N.W. 19, 21-22 (1941). Injuries are not covered when the assault was based on reasons personal to the victim and was not "directed against him as an employee, or because of his employment." Id.; cf. McGowan, 527 N.W.2d at 834 (holding injuries resulted from assault arising solely from victim's activities as director of homeless shelter, because assailant, a shelter client, attacked victim in her office, during work hours, as victim was counseling assailant).

The facts in the record demonstrate that Williams acted out of personal reasons--simply put, his own self-gratification. Williams has a long record of inappropriate and unwelcome conduct toward Johnson. The last and most heinous act, to break into her room and rape her, was not directed against Johnson "as an employee or because of [her] employment." Id. Johnson's job as front desk clerk was not the reason that Williams attacked her. Johnson simply had become the unfortunate object of Williams' attention in that environment. Under these circumstances, where the injury was unrelated to Johnson in her role as an employee, the incident falls under the assault exception to the Act. Consequently, the Johnsons may proceed with their negligence claims against Motel 6.

Given this holding, we need not address the other issues regarding the Act's applicability here. Although the district court did not explain its denial of summary judgment, the facts of the case support the court's ruling.


[ ]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.