Mary L. Johnson, Appellee,
Stormont Vail Healthcare Inc., Appellant.
receive a workers compensation award, the law places the
burden on the worker to prove that the injury arises out of
and in the course of the worker's employment.
law, an accident or injury which arose out of a neutral risk
with no particular employment or personal character cannot
arise out of and in the course of employment in order to be
compensable under the Workers Compensation Act.
question of whether an accident arises out of and in the
course of employment is a question of fact.
appellate review, determining whether the Board's
findings of fact are supported by substantial competent
evidence is a question of law.
Words and phrases shall be construed according to the context
and approved usage of the language, but technical words and
phrases and other words and phrases that have acquired a
peculiar and appropriate meaning in law, shall be construed
according to their peculiar and appropriate meanings.
deciding whether an injury arises out of employment, the
focus of inquiry should be on whether the activity that
results in injury is connected to, or is in, the performance
of the job.
the claimant has met the burden of proving a right to
compensation, the employer may seek relief from liability
based on any statutory defense or exception. The employer
then has the burden of proof on any claimed defenses or
from Workers Compensation Board.
M. Oakes, of McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A., of
Kansas City, for appellant.
D. Fincher, of Topeka, for appellee.
Arnold-Burger, C.J., Malone and Hill, JJ.
Johnson, a cleaning lady at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka,
fell twice at work and was injured. She received workers
compensation benefits after both the administrative law judge
and the Workers Compensation Appeals Board ruled that she had
proved her injuries arose out of and in the course of her
employment even though she could not explain why she fell.
Stormont Vail argues that since these were unexplained falls,
they are neutral risks and any injuries arising from neutral
risks are noncompensable under the Workers Compensation Act.
Because the Board made a factual finding that these falls had
an employment character, that is, Johnson fell while walking,
and walking was a major portion of her job, we hold the Board
properly awarded Johnson workers compensation benefits. The
Act only exempts from compensation injuries from neutral
risks such as unexplained falls that have no employment
a span of a few months, Johnson suffers two falls.
worked at Stormont Vail Hospital in the Environmental
Services Department as a housekeeper. Her duties included
cleaning patients' rooms, bathrooms, waiting rooms,
lobbies, and most other areas of the hospital. These duties
also included changing sheets, making beds, carrying dirty
linens to bins, removing trash, dusting, sweeping, and
2015, while she was walking down a basement hallway in the
hospital on her way to clean the pavilion, her foot caught
somehow and she fell. She later explained, "I was just
walking down, down the hallway and I, I just trip-I
fell." Johnson later stated, "I was just-just
walking and next thing I knew I had-my foot caught like that,
or something, and I just fell flat." She elaborated,
"I know my foot stopped (indicating). It stopped,
that's what made me trip." Johnson could not say
definitively what made her fall-whether she slipped or if her
foot caught on something sticky. Johnson noticed nothing on
the floor that she could have tripped over or that was wet.
she fell, she hit her left knee, skinned her arm, and got a
floor burn on her right hand that became bruised. She also
shattered her left kneecap. This injury forced her to go to a
rehabilitative center for about four days, and then after her
discharge she underwent physical therapy. Johnson was off
work for three months.
six months after returning to work, Johnson was again walking
down the basement hallway when she fell just outside the
housekeeping office. This time, she was carrying cleaning
supplies. "All I saw was me and my supplies scattered
all over the floor." She again denied slipping on
anything, said the floors looked fine, but also noted that
sometimes her shoes stuck to the floor.
this fall, Johnson fractured her left wrist. Once again, she
could not work for three months. When her doctor released her
to return to work, she was told to wear a brace. But since
Stormont Vail did not want her to work while wearing a brace,
it placed her on extended leave for another month.
the first fall, why Johnson fell is unclear. Once again,
Johnson acknowledged there was not anything obvious on the
floor that caused her fall. She suggested it was possibly
because of the hospital floors being sticky due to an
improperly mixed cleaning chemical. After Johnson's
second fall, her supervisor asked her what caused it. At his
deposition, Johnson's supervisor could not recall
Johnson's answer, but he thought she said that she was
not sure. He checked the floor for wetness and found it was
not wet, but he did not check for stickiness. At the time of
both falls, Johnson was wearing closed-toed, rubber-soled
shoes required by her employer. The floor in the basement is
covered mainly with hard tile and rubber matting in some
seeks workers ...