In Hohlt v. University of Minnesota, filed on June 28, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court has limited the scope of its prior decision in Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy, 840 N.W.2d 821 (Minn. 2013). The Hohlt decision will immediately impact how cases are analyzed with regard to the “arising out of” and “in the course of” compensability determinations, and may very well impact cases that are currently in litigation.
The employee worked for the employer as a building painter, and had worked in a number of buildings on the University of Minnesota campus. On the date of injury, she was painting in the Mayo building, working the 3 PM to 11:30 PM shift. She parked in the Oak Street ramp, a public parking ramp owned and operated by the employer. She parked there because it offered a cheaper rate after 2 PM. The ramp was located four blocks away from the Mayo building. The employee punched out early at 10:30 PM. It was sleeting and snowing that evening, and she walked the sidewalk between the Mayo building and the Oak Street ramp to get to her vehicle. The City of Minneapolis owned the sidewalk, but the employer had the responsibility to maintain the sidewalk, including keeping it clear of snow and ice, pursuant to city ordinance. The employee reached the intersection. As she walked forward onto the sidewalk curb ramp, not yet having reached the street, she slipped on the ice and fell, sustaining an injury.
In the subsequent hearing, Compensation Judge Cannon determined that the injury did not arise out of the employment, as the hazard faced by the employee of falling on winter ice or snow was not unlike the hazard faced by the general public. He did not specifically decide the issue of whether the injury occurred in the course of employment, although he implied that the injury would likely have been found to be in the course of.
Both parties appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals. The WCCA reversed the compensation judge. It held that the injury occurred in the course of employment, as at the time of the incident, the employee was on the premises of the employer, walking a short distance from where she worked on the most direct route to a parking ramp owned and operated by the employer. It also held that the injury arose out of the employment, as the employee’s presence on the employer’s premises was not due to her membership in the general public, but was because of her employment, and that is why she encountered the risk of the icy sidewalk.