Josephine M. Hohlt, Respondent,
University of Minnesota, Self-Insured, administered by Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Relator, and Fairview Health Services, University of Minnesota Physicians, Department of Labor and Industry/Vocational Restoration Unit, Painters & Allied Trades, and Clear Lake Physical Therapy & Rehab, Intervenors.
Compensation Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Richard C. Lund, Menk & Menk, for respondent.
Roderick C. Cosgriff, Heacox, Hartman, Koshmrl, Cosgriff
& Johnson, P.A., for relator.
A. Kleinschmidt, Cousineau McGuire Chartered, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for amicus curiae Defense Lawyers Association.
Lillehaug, J. Dissenting, Anderson, J., and Halbrooks, Jill,
Acting Justice[*] Took no part, Gildea, C.J., Stras and
employee who slipped and fell on ice met the "arising
out of" employment requirement of Minn. Stat. §
176.021, subd. 1 (2016), because there was a causal
connection between her injury and her employment in that her
employment exposed her to a hazard which originated on the
employer's premises as a part of the working environment.
employee who slipped and fell on ice while walking from her
workplace to the employer's parking ramp on a sidewalk
maintained by her employer met the "in the course
of" employment requirement of Minn. Stat. §
176.021, subd. 1.
Josephine Hohlt slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk when
walking from her workplace to a parking ramp owned and
operated by her employer, the University of Minnesota. Hohlt
filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. The
compensation judge denied Hohlt's claim on the ground
that her injury did not arise out of her employment. Hohlt
appealed to the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals
(WCCA), which reversed the compensation judge on the
"arising out of" issue and further held that the
injury was "in the course of" employment. Because
the WCCA was correct in concluding that Hohlt's injury
was compensable, we affirm its decision.
December 30, 2013, Josephine Hohlt drove to her job as a
painter at the University, where she was scheduled to work
from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Hohlt parked in the Oak Street
ramp, a public parking ramp owned and operated by the
University. She usually parked in the Oak Street ramp because
it charged $6 per day for cars arriving after 2 p.m., rather
than the usual $12 per day.
painted many buildings on the University's Twin Cities
campus, but she most often worked in the Mayo building and
the dormitories. That day, she painted in the Mayo building.
Hohlt finished her work early, so she and two coworkers
"punched out" at 10:30 p.m. It was sleeting and
snowing that night, so Hohlt walked carefully on the sidewalk
that stretched the four blocks between the Mayo building and
the Oak Street ramp. Although the City of Minneapolis owns
the sidewalk, the University as an adjacent property owner
has the responsibility to maintain it, including keeping it
clear of snow and ice. See Minneapolis, Minn., Code
of Ordinances § 445.20 (2016).
Hohlt and her coworkers reached the intersection of Oak
Street and Delaware Street, they waited for the traffic light
to indicate that they could cross the street. When the light
changed, Hohlt walked forward onto the sidewalk's curb
ramp. There, she slipped on ice and fell. Unable to get up,
Hohlt was helped into a coworker's car and taken to a
nearby emergency room.
had broken her hip. It failed to heal properly, so she
underwent hip replacement surgery about a year later. Two
months later, Hohlt returned to her job as a painter without
filed a claim petition for workers' compensation
benefits, and a compensation judge held a hearing on the
claim. The issues contested at the hearing were
whether Hohlt's injury arose out of her employment and
was in the course of her employment. See Minn. Stat.
§ 176.021, subd. 1 (2016).
findings and order following the hearing, the compensation
judge noted that "the parking lot exception may apply to
the course and scope requirement, " but did not decide
the issue. The compensation judge concluded that Hohlt's
injury did not "arise out of" her employment
because "the hazard faced by the employee of falling on
winter ice or snow was not unlike the hazard faced by the
general public." Hohlt appealed the compensation
judge's decision that her injury did not arise out of her
employment. The University cross-appealed on the issue of the
"in the course of" requirement.
Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, sitting en banc,
unanimously reversed the compensation judge's
"arising out of" conclusion. Hohlt v. Univ. of
Minn., No. WC15-5821, 2016 WL 698266, at *1 (Minn. WCCA
Feb. 3, 2016). The WCCA determined that "Hohlt was on
the premises of the employer when she was injured"
because she had recently punched out and "was walking a
short distance on the most direct route to a parking ramp
owned and operated by her employer." Id. at *6.
Thus, the WCCA concluded that "Hohlt was in the course
of her employment when [she was] injured." Id.
The WCCA also concluded that the injury arose out of
Hohlt's employment because her "presence on the
employer's premises . . . was not due to her membership
in the general public but was because of her employment by
the university." Id. at *5.
appeal, the University argues that the WCCA erred as a matter
of law by failing to adhere to Dykhoff's rule
that the "arising out of" and "in the course
of" tests in the statute must be applied independently.
See Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy, 840 N.W.2d 821, 830
(Minn. 2013). The University also contends that the WCCA
erred in substituting its findings of fact for those of the
WCCA is a "specialized agency of the executive branch,
its members selected for their experience and
expertise." Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees,
358 N.W.2d 54, 61 (Minn. 1984). It is entrusted with deciding
"all questions of law and fact arising under the
workers' compensation laws of the state in those cases
that have been appealed to the [WCCA]." Minn. Stat.
§ 175A.01, subd. 5 (2016). We will reverse the WCCA on
review if we determine that it clearly and manifestly erred
by rejecting findings supported by substantial evidence and
substituting its own findings. Hengemuhle, 358
N.W.2d at 59, 61; Gibberd v. Control Data Corp., 424
N.W.2d 776, 779-80 (Minn. 1988). In this case, the relevant
facts are undisputed, so we are left with a question of law,
which we consider de novo. Reider v. Anoka-Hennepin Sch.
Dist. No. 11, 728 N.W.2d 246, 249 (Minn. 2007)
(interpreting provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act
is a statutory question that we review de novo).
question of law presented is whether, applying undisputed
facts, Hohlt's injury is compensable under Minn. Stat.
§ 176.021. Section 176.021, subdivision 1, provides that
"[e]very employer is liable for compensation according
to the provisions of this chapter and is liable to pay
compensation in every case of personal injury or death of an
employee arising out of and in the course of employment
without regard to the question of negligence." The
"arising out of" and the "in the course
of" requirements in the statute are distinct and each
must be met for an injury to be compensable.
Dykhoff, 840 N.W.2d at 826. The University argues
that Hohlt satisfied neither the "arising out of"
requirement nor the "in the course of" requirement.
injury to arise out of employment, "a causal
connection-not necessarily in the proximate cause sense-must
exist between the injury and the employment."
Gibberd, 424 N.W.2d at 780. A causal connection
"is supplied if the employment exposes the employee to a
hazard which originates on the premises as a part of the
working environment, or . . . peculiarly exposes the employee
to an external hazard whereby he is subjected to a different
and a greater risk than if he had been pursuing his ordinary
personal affairs." Dykhoff, 840 N.W.2d at 826
(quoting Nelson v. City of St. Paul, 81 N.W.2d 272,
275 (Minn. 1957)) (internal quotation marks omitted). When
"the employment creates a special hazard from which
injury comes, then, within the meaning of the statute, there
is that causal relation between employment" and the
injury. Id. (quoting Hanson v.
Robitshek-Schneider Co., 297 N.W. 19, 21 (Minn.
1941)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
compensation judge determined that Hohlt's injury did not
result from a special hazard. The University contends that
this was a factual finding. It was not; rather, the
compensation judge applied the law-the
"increased-risk" test-to the undisputed facts.
"Increased risk" is a legal test based on the
workers' compensation statute's "arising out
of" language. See Dykhoff, 840 N.W.2d at 826.
WCCA applied the increased-risk test to the undisputed facts,
and correctly concluded that there was a causal connection
between the injury and the employment. Specifically, the
causal connection exists because Hohlt's employment
exposed her to a hazard that originated on the premises as
part of the working environment.
case, that hazard was the University-maintained sidewalk.
Hohlt was moving from one part of her employer's premises
to another. As she walked from the Mayo building to
the Oak Street ramp, she fell on an icy patch. She was
exposed to the icy sidewalk on her employer's premises
because she was there, not as a member of the general public,
but because of her employment as a painter. There was a