EMPLOYEE SUFFERS COMPENSABLE INJURY RETURNING TO WORKPLACE AFTER RETRIEVING ITEM FROM HIS VEHICLE
Ex parte Advantage Resourcing, Inc.
Circuit Court of Mobile County, Alabama (April 20, 2012)
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently held that an employee who suffered a slip and fall accident while returning to the employers shop, after retrieving his two-way radio from his personal vehicle, suffered a compensable injury.
The employee, Hennon Hollinghead, reported to his customary place of work (shop) on the day of his accident and injury. After arriving at his normal arrival time, Hollinghead entered the shop by using a walkway extending from a nearby parking lot to the shop. Hollinghead testified that “everybody” at his work place used the walkway.
Hollinghead had left his portable two-way radio unit in his motor vehicle. He returned to the parking lot to retrieve it. As he again used the walkway headed toward the shop, Hollinghead slipped on a piece of PVC piping. He fell on his back and right side and began to experience immediate, debilitating pain.
At the direction of his employer, Hollinghead was treated by Dr. William Patton, an orthopedic specialist. After obtaining X-ray images and performing a physical examination, Dr. Patton initially believed that Hollinghead’s neck pain stemmed from arthritis. Dr. Patton ordered an MRI. The MRI revealed foraminal stenosis (degenerative narrowing of nerve conduits) and an accumulation of fluid in the neck. Dr. Patton referred Hollinghead to Dr. Kevin Donahoe, an orthopedic surgeon.
Dr. Donahoe performed additional testing, including a nerve-conduction study, which revealed that Hollinghead had nerve root pressure near the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae. Dr. Donahoe recommended that Hollinghead undergo a corpectomy to remove impinging vertebral disks in the cervical spine in order to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord and affected nerve roots. The employer declined authorization of this surgery contending that Hollinghead’s injury did not arise out of his employment. After a hearing, the trial court ordered the employer to pay medical and temporary-total-disability benefits to Hollinghead and to approve the surgical procedure. The employer appealed the trial court’s ruling. The Court of Civil Appeals considered the employer’s appeal as a Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
The Court of Civil Appeals denied the employer’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus. In doing so, the Court of Civil Appeals cited to facts of Hollinghead’s fall to support its decision. At the time of his fall, Hollinghead was in the process of returning to the shop, i.e., “the place where the employee reported at the start of each of his work days.” Hollinghead’s fall occurred after he had gone to his vehicle to retrieve a two-way radio, which no party disputed was a tool of Hollinghead’s work. The walkway where the fall occurred was used by other employees. Hollinghead’s fall stemmed from a PVC pipe that had been allowed to remain in close proximity to the walkway leading to the shop at which Hollinghead and his co-workers were to report to work each day. The Court of Civil Appeals cited to prior holdings which have held that an employee is covered by the Act for a reasonable time, space, and opportunity before and after he is at or near his place of employment.
The Court of Civil Appeals denied the employer’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus and held that the trial court’s order awarding medical and temporary-total-disability benefits was not to be disturbed.
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