UNEXPLAINED FALLS ARE NOW CONSIDERED COMPENSABLE
Lana Brown v. Korner Store:
On April 17, 2009, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals considered whether or not an unexplained fall satisfies the "arising out of" part of the test for causation. The undisputed facts revealed that the employee, a 60 year old cashier, turned quickly and made a few quick steps towards the cash register when she saw a customer approaching the counter. The closed circuit television system video revealed that the employee simply fell to the ground. The employee testified that she did not know what caused her to fall. As a result, the trial judge granted summary judgment in favor of the employer based on a prior case with similar facts (Wal-Mart Stores v. Morgan). Unfortunately, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court by relying on a more recent case (Ex Parte Byrom) which, according to the Court, effectively reversed all the cases before it (including Wal-Mart v. Morgan). In other words, prior to Ex parte Byrom, an employee had to be able to prove that the employment was the "source and cause" of an accident. If a fall was unexplained, then the employee could not satisfy this burden and would lose. In overruling these cases, the Court held that if employees can establish that they fell at work, then they satisfy the "arising out of" part of the causation test. This has the effect of doing away with the "arising out of" part of the test altogether. The employee now only need show that the fall happened "in the course of" the employment and they have met the necessary burden to prove legal causation.
My Two Cents: The case which the Court of Civil Appeals relies on as overruling Wal-Mart v. Morgan concerned an employee that was electrocuted while on the telephone. In that case, the Alabama Supreme Court held that the claim was compensable because the employee established that his work duties made him more susceptible to such an accident. As such, it should not have the effect of overruling prior case law regarding unexplained falls. Hopefully, this case will be reviewed by the Alabama Supreme Court and the matter will be reversed. Otherwise, employers will be responsible for all on the job accidents regardless of the cause.