Brief Fact Summary. Kristina Wait (P) was attacked by an acquaintance whom she let into her home office while working.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the workers’ compensation act, a compensable injury is one which occurs as a result of and in the process of the plaintiff’s occupation.
The phrase in the course of refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the injury, and arising out of refers to its cause or origin.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Under the workers’ compensation act, is a compensable injury one which occurs both as a result of and in the process of the plaintiff’s occupation?
Held. (Barker, C.J) Yes. Under the workers’ compensation act, a compensable injury is one which occurs as a result of and in the process of the plaintiff’s occupation. These two aspects need to be satisfied to receive compensation. The injury which occurs during the course of the job is one which falls within the time period of employment, at the location of the employment, and during the course of the employee’s duties or any other duty following on his work. If he is on a lunch or other personal break when the injuries occur, such injuries are also generally compensable. All these criteria are met in Wait’s case, and so her injury was suffered in the course of her employment. However, her injury must also arise out of, or have a causal relationship with her employment. Based on prior court decisions, work-related assaults may be categorized as (1) Those which are in themselves related to the job, such as payment disputes. These are eligible for compensation. (2) Those which are private but carried over into the workplace, such as a domestic assault. These are not compensable. (3) Those which arise from neutral forces. Their origin is not related to the employment. Whether they are compensable or not depends on the circumstances surrounding each case. In Wait’s case, it depends on whether a connection can be traced to some specific risk inbuilt into the employment. Here there is no obvious need for Wait to expose herself to the public during the course of her work. Such a need, as in the case of truck drivers, might supply a connection between the job and the injury which is seen as causal. This is known as the â€œstreet riskâ€ doctrine. But here the connection between the ACS employment and the assault is non-existent, as she was neither guarding ACS property nor attacked because of her work, or because she belonged to ACS. Thus it was a neutral assault within the workplace. Thus the court is right in affirming that her injury did not result from her employment.
Discussion. The fallout of this verdict is that workers at home may also avail of worker’s compensation if eligible. A home-based business employee may complain of carpal tunnel syndrome if it arises out of computer use during working hours at home. However, it is needful to prove that the injury arose out of the working conditions in some way. In this case, Wait’s allowing Sawyers into her home was not related to her work and hence the assault was not connected with her employment.