Sunland Beef Co. v. Indus. Comm’n. of Ariz. – 5/29/2007

June 22, 2007

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Reaffirms "Positional-Risk" Doctrine for Unexplained Employee Falls.

In this Industrial Commission special action, Sunland Beef sought review of the ALJ’s award finding a compensable claim for Donald Delaware, a Sunland employee who fell while at work. The ALJ found that Delaware’s injuries were the result of an unexplained fall and that therefore the injuries were compensable (i.e. arising out of the employment) under the “positional risk” doctrine. That doctrine provides that an injury arises out of employment if it occurs “in the court of” the employment. Division One, in a unanimous opinion by Judge Gemmill, affirmed.

Division One first noted that the “arising out of” requirement refers to the origin of the injury. See¬†Circle K Store #1131 v. Indus. Comm’n. of Ariz., 165 Ariz. 91, 93-94¬†(1990). The Court then reaffirmed that Arizona follows the “positional-risk” doctrine in unexplained fall cases. See id. at 95-96. Under that doctrine, if the claimant can show that the injury happened in the course of employment, a presumption arises that the injury is compensable. Op. at Para. 20 citing Circle K, 165 Ariz. at 96. The doctrine is based on the logic that the “claimant would not have been at the place of injury but for the duties of her employment.” Id.

Turning to the facts of this case, the court noted that the ALJ concluded this was an unexplained fall and that the record supported that conclusion. Thus, applying the positional-risk doctrine, the Court held that because the fall was unexplained and because it took place in the course of Delaware’s employment, the injury was compensable.

Judges Portley and Irvine concurred.