Krull v. Divine House, Inc. – WCCA affirms Compensation Judge’s finding that a knee injury sustained when taking a step while carrying three gallons of milk did not arise out the employment
Krull v. Divine House, Inc. (https://mn.gov/workcomp-stat/2018/Krull%20-%2009-27-18.html)
In a September 27, 2018 decision, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed Judge Stephen R. Daly’s determination that a knee injury sustained when taking a step while carrying three gallons of milk did not arise out the employment, as the employee was not exposed to a condition that put her at an increased risk of injury.
Lori Krull worked as a program coordinator for Divine House. She alleged injury to the left knee on February 23, 2017 while helping a client carry groceries into a group home. On February 6, 2017, a little over two weeks before the alleged work injury, the employee was examined by a CPRN who noted that the employee’s left knee exhibited swelling and tenderness. The Nurse diagnosed osteoarthritis and prescribed Naproxen.
On February 23, 2017, the Employee picked up three gallons of milk from her car and turned toward the building. As she began walking toward the building, she noted a loud popping noise in her left knee, accompanied by severe pain. She was subsequently diagnosed with a meniscus tear. A partial medical meniscectomy and minimal chrondroplasty was performed on April 6, 2017. She returned to work on or about April 21, 2017.
On January 16, 2018, Dr. Paul Cederberg performed an IME on behalf of the Employer and Insurer. Dr. Cederberg opined that the need for surgery on April 6, 2017 resulted from a pre-existing condition, unrelated to any specific work injury.
On January 17, 2018, the treating surgeon, Dr. Dahl, issued a narrative report stating that it was “possible” that the employee had sustained the meniscus tear at the time of the February 23, 2017 work incident. Dr. Dahl, according to the court, also indicated that the employee’s left knee was “not demonstrated to have a normal meniscus at the February 6, 2017 examination, as an MRI would have been required to make such a determination and the employee had been complaining of left knee pain for several months.”
The case went to hearing on January 23, 2018 and in subsequent Findings and Order Judge Daly determined that the employee did not suffer a compensable work injury as the left knee condition did not arise out the employment.
In affirming Judge Daly’s decision, the WCCA emphasized that the employee bears the burden of establishing a causal connection between the work and the injury. Citing the Minnesota Supreme Court decisions in Dykoff v. Xcel Energy, Hohlt v. Univ. Of Minn., and Roller-Dick v. Centracare Health Sys., the court noted that the “causal connection is some form of increased risk that the employee is exposed to through employment.” The court concluded that the employee failed to establish an increased risk and, in turn, affirmed Judge Daly’s Findings. In doing so, the court emphasized that there was no evidence that the Employee’s left knee condition was caused by a twisting motion or carrying the three gallons of milk. The court stated:
In this matter, the employee had completed her turn and was striding normally. The employee’s testimony was unequivocal that she was walking normally, an unaffected by the three gallons of milk that she was carrying.
This case is very fact specific and largely based on the employee’s testimony regarding the mechanism of injury. The decision appears to have paused the erosion of Dykoff found in Hohlt and Roller-Dick.