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N.C. Court of Appeals Upholds Ruling in Favor of Woman Who Fell During Lunch Break

The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarding workers' compensation benefits to a woman who fell while walking on her lunch break.

The woman, who worked for Verizon Wireless, took an hour-long unpaid lunch break and went for a walk through the hallways of the first floor of her building for exercise. Near the end of her break, she slipped and fell on some ice near an ice machine. The fall caused her to land on her knee, and doctors say it aggravated arthritis in her knee caused by a previous knee injury.

Medical31_07232014The woman was awarded medical compensation, indemnity benefits and attorney's fees. However, her employer appealed the award on the grounds that her injury did not "arise out of" and "in the course of" her employment, and that her fall aggravated her previous injury.

The N.C. Court of Appeals found that even though the woman was on her lunch break when the fall occurred, the work injury "arose out of" her employment because she was in a building that was not open to the public and was, therefore, only accessible to her because of her employment. The court also found that her work injury arose "in the course of" her employment since this definition "includes times during the workday for rest and refreshment" and since "'[a]n employee tending to her personal needs is indirectly benefiting the employer[,]' and 'it was in [d]efendant-[e]mployer's interest that [p]laintiff be rested and refreshed so she could provide pleasant and effective customer service, and the activity in which [p]laintiff was engaging when she fell thus indirectly benefited [d]efendant-[e]mployer."

The court also upheld the judgment of the N.C. Industrial Commission regarding the evidence and witness testimony that the fall "materially aggravated" the woman's previous injury.

The full judgment of the N.C. Industrial Commission was upheld, including the full award granted the woman for her on-the-job injuries.

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