New Mexico Appeals Court Says Employee Owed Workers’ Comp

October 22, 2018

An employee that tripped and fell at work is owed workers’ compensation benefits despite his employer’s argument that the accident didn’t arise our of and in the course of his work, according to a recent ruling by the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

David Grieco was employed as a maintenance technician by Jones Lang LaSalle, a contractor for Intel, and performed tenant service requests and preventative maintenance and repairs at an Intel job site. According to facts provided within the opinion, maintenance technicians at Intel walk up to 12 miles a day and average about 8 miles a day.

Due to the dangers of the facility, Intel has a policy of requiring a spotter to observe the maintenance technician and call for help, if needed.

Grieco was spotting another technician on July 6, 2015, when he tripped over his own foot and fell. He sustained a fractured humerus. Upon investigation it was determined there was no issue with the flooring or any evidence of a substance that caused his fall.

His employer’s workers’ comp insurer denied the claim, citing that his fall was not work-related. A workers’ comp judge affirmed the insurer’s determination, indicating Grieco wasn’t entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. According to the order, “no risk reasonably incident to Workers’ employment caused Worker’s fall or injury” and “the risk experienced by Worker was not increased by the circumstances of Worker’s employment”.

Grieco appealed the order, citing that “falling at work is a neutral risk that gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the worker’s injuries are compensable”.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals, in its review, indicated the issue was a narrow one – whether Grieco’s trip and fall arose out of and in the course of his employment. According to the opinion, camera footage at trial confirms that he fell for no reason. Because Grieco was required to walk long corridors as part of his job and was walking to get to the location where he was to perform “spotting” duties, the court concluded his injury was the result of the unexplained fall – considered a neutral risk under Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law – and arose out of his employment. Thus, his injury is compensable and the case was remanded to the Workers’ Compensation Administration for further handling.

The case is David D. Grieco v. Jones Lang LaSalle and the Hartford, No. A-1-CA-36072

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