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Judges uphold workers’ comp claim for nurse

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board’s ruling in favor of a home health care registered nurse on her claim for workers' compensation. The judges rejected the company’s argument that the board’s decision was based on the defunct “positional risk doctrine.”

Kathleen Miecznikowski was visiting a patient at the patient’s home when she lost her footing and fell on the sidewalk, injuring her arm and hand. She filed an application for adjustment of claim with the board; a single hearing member denied the claim, but the full board reversed. It concluded that her injuries had arisen out of her employment with A Plus Home Health Care Inc. and that her fall “was a neutral risk and therefore compensable. There is no indication (Miecznikowski) had a personal condition that caused her to fall.”

In A Plus Home Health Care Incorporated v. Kathleen Miecznikowski, 93A02-1207-EX-558, A Plus contended that because the board concluded that Miecznikowski’s injuries arose from a neutral risk, the board’s conclusion is necessarily premised on the now-defunct positional risk doctrine described by the Indiana Supreme Court in Milledge v. The Oaks, 784 N.E.2d 926, 929 (Ind. 2003).

In that case, the justices imposed the positional risk doctrine to avoid placing claimants in the position of attempting to prove a negative – that the injury was not personal to the claimant. The Indiana General Assembly amended l.C. 23-3-2-2 in 2006 to say that the burden of proof is on the employee.

This amendment does not supersede the Supreme Court’s conclusion that neutral risks are compensable under the act, Judge Edward Najam wrote. Here, Miecznikowski presented evidence that her injuries weren’t the result of a mental illness or condition and therefore weren’t the result of a personal risk.

In light of the evidence, the judges agreed with the board’s conclusion that her fall was a neutral risk and therefore compensable.

“A Plus’s argument that this conclusion necessarily relies on the positional risk doctrine is incorrect. At all times, pursuant to the 2006 amendment to Indiana Code Section 23-3-2-2, Kathy bore the burden of proof on all elements of her claim. Kathy met her burden, unlike the claimant in Pavese (v. Cleaning Solutions, 894 N.E.2d 570, 576 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008)), when she testified that the cause of the fall was both not a personal risk and also was a neutral risk,” he wrote.

 

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