The Appellate Group

Oceguera v. Labor Commission

Oceguera v. Labor Commission, 2020 UT App 83 (Harris, J.)

Workers’ Compensation

An employee-seamstress had preexisting osteoarthritis in her knee. One day at work, the employee stepped on a sewing machine pedal with slippery cloth on it, twisting her foot and causing pain in her knee. She tore her meniscus. After the employee filed for temporary total disability benefits, the ALJ (and later the Labor Board) concluded that the employee could not show that her employment contributed something substantial to increase the risk she already faced with her preexisting condition. The Utah Court of Appeals reversed, holding:

  • Under the test in Allen v. Industrial Commission, 729 P.2d 15 (Utah 1986), where an employee suffers from a preexisting condition which contributes to a workplace injury, an unusual or extraordinary exertion is required to prove legal causation.
  • The employee established that her injury was legally caused by the workplace accident. Under the totality of the circumstances, the exertion expended by the employee in the course of her accident was greater than that usually undertaken by an average person in nonemployment life. In an effort to maximize her production rate, the employee was hurrying to the next station. She applied “significant pressure” to the foot pedal. And that foot pedal, unbeknownst to her, was more slippery than she was anticipating, since it had no grip tape and was covered by a stray piece of cloth. In the course of daily non-employment life, people do not typically encounter situations like that.

Read the full court opinion