The majority of cases we get involved with are fairly straightforward. Someone hurts their back lifting a patient or a box, or they get carpal tunnel from typing too much. or they have their foot run over by a forklift. Something along those lines is pretty common. They doesn’t mean the case is a good one, it just means that the way in which they got hurt was pretty typical.
The cases I love though, are the unique ones. I wrote the other day about a worker who won benefits after accidentally shooting himself while working. There is a famous case of an Illinois worker who got hurt on a business trip in Hawaii while riding a bike in a volcano. He won his case because he was a traveling employee.
The most recent interesting case I read about, that was a winner, was a worker who hurt herself while flushing a toilet.
The most obvious question is, how can flushing a toilet cause a work related injury? What happened was during her normal work hours she went to the bathroom in an employee only area. While sitting on the toilet, she reached behind her and tried to flush the toilet. It didn’t work so she tried pushing even harder. While doing that she felt pain in her shoulder down to her elbow.
At trial she testified that there were problems with this toilet since she had started working there two years ago. Believe it or not, she won her case.
The reason she was successful is something called the personal comfort doctrine. Basically, you aren’t expected to be a robot for eight hours. It’s expected that you will take bathroom or meal breaks throughout the day. Nothing this worker did was unsafe or unreasonable. Essentially taking this bathroom break is part of her job duties.
So the question then comes, did this activity put her at risk of injury that is different than the general public experiences. In this case although everyone uses the bathroom, this worker was put at a greater risk based on the force needed to flush this defective toilet due to the malfunctioning handle. An employer has an obligation to provide a safe work space for their workers. That doesn’t just mean no wet floors, it can even include working toilets. This was all within the control of the employer. Coupled with the fact that the general public couldn’t use this bathroom and it was the only one that this woman had access to made the case a winner.
It doesn’t get more unique than this case. The bottom line is that odd or atypical doesn’t mean you don’t have the same rights as an other injured employee. As always this is the reason why you should get a consultation with an attorney to see what your rights are. I’d bet in this case though that seven out of ten attorneys would have not taken this case on. And that shows how a real experienced attorney who fights for their clients can make a difference.