RENEE D. JOHNSON, Employee/Appellant, v. RICCI=S OF HUGO, and MINNESOTA ASSIGNED RISK PLAN/BERKLEY RISK ADM=RS CO., Employer-Insurer, and METROPOLITAN HEALTH PLAN and HEALTHEAST-ST. JOHN=S HOSP., Intervenors.
WORKERS= COMPENSATION COURT OF APPEALS
SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
ARISING OUT OF & IN THE COURSE OF. Where the employee had stopped working and had begun socializing, drinking, and playing pool, her injury upon leaving the employer=s premises was not "in the course of" employment since the employee was no longer engaged in activity reasonably incidental to her employment.
Determined by: Rykken, J., Wilson, J., and Johnson, C.J.
Compensation Judge: Danny P. Kelly
Attorneys: Kenneth N. Potts, Attorney at Law, Minnetonka, MN, for the Appellant. Peter J. Williams and Christine L. Tuft, Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak & Pikala, Minneapolis, MN, for the Respondents.
MIRIAM P. RYKKEN, Judge
The employee appeals the compensation judge=s finding that the employee=s injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. We affirm.
On November 6, 2003, Renee D. Johnson, the employee, worked as a bartender for Ricci=s of Hugo, the employer, which was insured for workers= compensation liability by the Minnesota Assigned Risk Plan, as administered by Berkley Risk Administrators. The employee worked from 10:30 a.m. until 5:10 p.m., when her shift ended and she punched out on a time clock. The employee received a free beverage at the end of her shift; according to the employee=s testimony, all employees are offered a free beverage at the conclusion of their shifts. The employee was served a 23 ounce glass of beer as her free beverage. The employee=s husband had met her at Ricci=s and purchased the employee another 23 ounce glass of beer plus a 12 ounce bottle of beer, half of which the employee consumed. The employee also played pool at Ricci=s, practicing for her pool league play scheduled to be held at 7:00 p.m. that same night at a separate location approximately one-half mile from Ricci=s. At 6:30 p.m., the employee left the bar, slipped and fell on ice outside the employer=s door, fracturing her right ankle as a result of the fall. An ambulance was called and the employee was transported to St. John=s Hospital, where she underwent surgery on her ankle and was hospitalized for three days. The employee was released to work on February 11, 2004, but has not been called back to work by the employer.
On December 12, 2003, the employee filed a claim petition for temporary total disability benefits and medical expenses. The employer denied the claim, arguing that the employee=s injury did not arise out of and in the course of employment and that the injury was not causally related to her employment but instead was caused by her intoxication at the time of the injury. A hearing was held on December 29, 2004, to address the employee=s claim petition. In his Findings and Order served and filed on February 21, 2005, the compensation judge found that the medical expenses were reasonable and necessary and were causally related to the employee=s injury, that the employee was temporarily totally disabled from November 7, 2003, through February 12, 2004, that the employee=s alleged intoxication was not a proximate cause of the employee=s injury, but that the employee=s injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. On that basis, the compensation judge denied the employee=s claim. The employee appeals.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
On appeal, the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals must determine whether "the findings of fact and order [are] clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted." Minn. Stat. ' 176.421, subd. 1. Substantial evidence supports the findings if, in the context of the entire record, "they are supported by evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate." Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees, 358 N.W.2d 54, 59, 37 W.C.D. 235, 239 (Minn. 1984). Where evidence conflicts or more than one inference may reasonably be drawn from the evidence, the findings are to be affirmed. Id. at 60, 37 W.C.D. at 240. Similarly, findings of fact should not be disturbed, even though the reviewing court might disagree with them, "unless they are clearly erroneous in the sense that they are manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.@ Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prods., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975).
The employee appeals the compensation judge=s finding that the employee=s right ankle injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. Employers are liable to pay workers= compensation benefits for an employee=s personal injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. Minn. Stat. '' 176.021, subd. 1, 176.011, subd. 16; MacNamara v. Jennie H. Boyd Trust, 287 Minn. 163, 177 N.W.2d 398, 25 W.C.D. 132 (1970). The burden of proving that a personal injury arose out of the employment is on the employee. Minn. Stat. ' 176.021, subd. 1. "Arising out of" refers to the causal connection between the employment and the injury, and "in the course of" refers to the time, place and circumstances of the injury. Gibberd v. Control Data Corp., 424 N.W.2d 776, 780, 40 W.C.D. 1040, 1047 (Minn. 1988) (citing Lange v. Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Airport Comm=n., 257 Minn. 54, 99 N.W.2d 915, 21 W.C.D. 61 (1959)). The Aarising out of@ and Ain the course of@ requirements of Minn. Stat. ' 176.011, subd. 16, are not independent, but are elements of a single test of work-connection. United Fire & Casualty Co. v. Maw, 510 N.W.2d 241 (Minn. Ct. App. 1994).
This court has adopted Larson=s balancing test when determining if the evidence in a particular case supports a compensation judge=s analysis of whether a particular injury was work-related. Bohlin v. St. Louis County, 61 W.C.D. 69 (W.C.C.A. 2000) (citing A. Larson, Workmen=s Compensation for Occupational Injuries & Death, ' 29.00 (1993)), summarily aff=d (Minn. Jan. 16, 2001). A minimum level of work-connection must be proven. Where the Acourse@ test is weak but the Aarising@ test is strong, the necessary minimum quantum of work-connection may be met. Similarly, where the Acourse@ test is strong but the Aarising@ test is weak, the work-connection may also be met. Where both tests are weak, however, insufficient connection to the employment may exist. Id. at 79. AWhen a line is drawn, there are always cases very close to each side of the line. No absolute rule can be derived, since there are too many factual variables that could affect the result.@ Id. at 81. Each case which addresses whether an injury arose out of and in the course of employment stands on its own facts. Gibberd, 424 N.W.2d at 780, 40 W.C.D. at 1047; Novack v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 158 Minn. 495, 498, 198 N.W. 290, 292, 2 W.C.D. 156, 159 (1924).
The compensation judge found that the employee=s injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment, concluding that (1) after consuming the complimentary beverage following her work shift, the employee was no longer engaged in activity reasonably incidental to her employment at Ricci=s, and (2) the employee slipped and fell after completing her work shift, well after Aa reasonable period of time beyond actual working hours@ for egress from the employer=s premises. The primary focus on appeal is whether the employee=s injury arose Ain the course of@ employment where she had stopped working on the employer=s premises and had begun socializing.
For an injury to arise Ain the course of@ employment, the injury must arise Awithin the time and space boundaries of the employment.@ Nelson v. City of St. Paul, 249 Minn. 53, 56, 81 N.W.2d 272, 276, 19 W.C.D. 120, 123 (1957) (emphasis in original). Parking lots owned or maintained by an employer for its employees are considered part of the work Apremises.@ Starrett v. Pier Foundry, 488 N.W.2d 273, 274, 47 W.C.D. 176, 177 (Minn. 1992); Merrill v. J.C. Penney Co., 256 N.W.2d 518, 30 W.C.D. 278 (Minn. 1977). Here, the employee=s injury occurred outside the employer=s front door, clearly on the employer=s Apremises@ and satisfying the Aspace@ requirement. The issue is whether the Atime@ requirement was met.
A[T]he protection of workers= compensation acts extends to a reasonable period beyond actual working hours if an employee is engaging in activities reasonably incidental to employment.@ Starrett, 488 N.W.2d at 274, 47 W.C.D. at 177. Following a normal route of ingress and egress to and from the employer=s premises is considered to be reasonably incident to employment and A[a]ny hazards accompanying it may therefore be said, logically and justly, to characterize and be referable to the employment.@ Simonson v. Knight, 174 Minn. 491, 493, 219 N.W. 869, 870, 5 W.C.D. 114, 116 (1928). The Aingress and egress@ rule provides coverage under the Act during a reasonable period before and after work for ingress to and egress from the employer=s premises. See, e.g., Satack v. State, Dep=t of Public Safety, 275 N.W.2d 556, 557 n. 1, 31 W.C.D. 260, 261 n. 1 (Minn. 1978); Simonson, 174 Minn. at 494, 219 N.W. at 870, 5 W.C.D. at 116. The compensation judge found that the employee slipped and fell one hour and twenty minutes after she completed her work shift, and concluded that, under these circumstances, this was not a reasonable period of egress.
The employee argues that if the employee=s time spent drinking the free beverage provided by the employer is not included in the Acalculation@ of post-workshift time spent at Ricci=s, then the employee arguably left within one hour of completing her work. The supreme court has found periods up to approximately one hour to be a Areasonable period@ for ingress or egress. See, e.g., Starrett, 488 N.W.2d 273, 47 W.C.D. 176 (injury Awithin an hour@ of the beginning of the employee=s shift); Satack, 275 N.W.2d at 557 n. 1, 31 W.C.D. at 261 n. 1 (although injury not compensable because it did not occur on the employer=s premises, 45 minutes before work deemed Awithin the time requirements of@ Minn. Stat. ' 176.011, subd. 16); Blattner v. Loyal Order of Moose, 264 Minn. 79, 117 N.W.2d 570, 22 W.C.D. 323 (1962) (after waiting for a ride, employee injured when leaving work premises with co-worker one hour after completing his work duties).
While the time period of one hour may be considered a reasonable period of egress in some circumstances, in this case the employee was not engaged in activities reasonably incidental to employment during that period of time following her work shift, and therefore, there no longer was a work-connection between the employee=s activities and her injury. The compensation judge could reasonably conclude that once the employee=s husband began purchasing beverages for her and she began practicing shooting pool, the employee was no longer engaged in activity reasonably incidental to her employment, and that she had become a customer of the employer=s establishment long before the time she walked outside and injured herself. In view of the facts and circumstances surrounding the employee=s injury, we conclude that substantial evidence supports the compensation judge=s findings that at the time of her injury, the employee was not engaged in activity reasonably incidental to her employment, and that the employee=s injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. Therefore, we affirm.