Perry v. State
134 P.3d 1242 (Wyo.2006).

Facts:

  • Perry was a nurse at Mountain Towers, a nursing home.
  • Mountain Towers had a policy against lifting patients classified as “two-person lifts” alone.
  • One night while working the graveyard shift, a patient needed help using the restroom. The patient was classified as a two-person lift.
  • When the two other nurses on duty didn’t help Perry, she tried to assist the patient by herself.
  • She ended up hurting her back and requested worker’s compensation benefits.

History:

  • The Division denied the request.
  • The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denied.
  • The district court affirmed.

Issue:
When an employee deviates from a prescribed safety rule resulting in injury, should worker’s compensation benefits be denied?

Holding:
Yes. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • Relying on an earlier Wyoming Supreme Court case, Smith v. Husky Terminal Restaurant, the court applied a four-part test:
    • An employee can be found to have acted outside the scope of employment by violating a work restriction when the following elements are shown:

(1) the employer expressly and carefully informs the employee that she must not perform a specific task or tasks while in his employ;
(2) the employee knows and understands the specific restriction imposed;
(3) the employer has not knowingly continued to accept the benefit of a violation of the restriction by the employee; and
(4) the injury for which benefits are claimed arises out of conduct that clearly violates the specific restriction.

  • Here:

(1) Employees received lifting training, there was an orientation, and the policy was written.
(2) Perry signed a document acknowledging the policy.
(3) Mountain Towers didn’t receive any benefits because violating the policy placed both patients and employees at risk.
(4) Perry admitted her back injury occurred because of performing the two-person lift by herself.

Rule: When an employee deviates from a prescribed safety rule resulting in injury, worker’s compensation benefits are denied.