Schreiber v. Labor Comm'n

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Schreiber v. Labor Comm'n - Case No. 990132-CA IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS

Kristine S. Schreiber,


Labor Commission and Jordan School District,

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 990132-CA

(December 23, 1999)
  1999 UT App 376


Original Proceeding in this Court

Robert C. Olsen and Theodore E. Kanell, Salt Lake City, for Petitioner
Alan Hennebold, Salt Lake City, for Respondent Labor Commission
Thomas C. Sturdy and Dori K. Petersen, Salt Lake City, for Respondent Jordan School District


Before Judges Greenwood, Bench, and Billings.

Kristine S. Schreiber, a playground supervisor employed by the Jordan School District, appeals the Labor Commission's denial of workers' compensation benefits. Schreiber had a history of back problems, including back surgery. The Labor Commission determined that an accident that occurred on a playground when a rubber ball struck Schreiber in the back was not the legal cause of her injury.

In order to show legal cause, "a claimant with a preexisting [medical] condition must show that the employment contributed something substantial to increase the risk he already faced in everyday life." Allen v. Industrial Comm'n, 729 P.2d 15, 25 (Utah 1986). To establish a work-related nexus of legal causation under Allen, a claimant with a preexisting condition must prove that the accident in question resulted from "unusual or extraordinary exertion." Id. at 26.

The Legislature has explicitly granted broad discretion to the Labor Commission to "determine the facts and apply the law in this chapter or any other title or chapter it administers." Utah Code Ann. § 34A-1-301 (1997). When discretion is delegated to an agency by statute, its interpretation or application of law receives intermediate review under the Utah Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA). See Utah Code Ann. § 63-46b-16(4)(h)(i) (1997); Morton Int'l, Inc. v. State Tax Comm'n, 814 P.2d 581, 587-89 (Utah 1991).(1) Thus, we must determine "whether the Labor Commission's decision exceeded the bounds of reasonableness and rationality." Osman Home Improvement v. Industrial Comm'n, 958 P.2d 240, 243 (Utah Ct. App. 1998); see also Johnson Bros. Constr. v. Labor Comm'n, 967 P.2d 1258, 1259 (Utah Ct. App. 1998); Caporoz v. Labor Comm'n, 945 P.2d 141, 143 (Utah Ct. App. 1997).

We cannot say that the Labor Commission's determination was unreasonable. The Labor Commission determined that the direct force of the ball was "relatively minor, comparable to the jostling one frequently encounters in crowds," and that Schreiber's surprised reaction "does not appear to be different from the everyday event of tripping on a rug or a [sic] uneven sidewalk." The validity of these comparisons was supported by substantial evidence presented by the School District's biomechanical expert during the hearing.

Tripping without falling, and being startled in the process, can reasonably be considered a part of ordinary nonemployment life. The Labor Commission found that Schreiber's accident involved a comparable level of exertion--a finding of fact supported by the record--and thus reasonably concluded that her accident was not the legal cause of her injury. We therefore affirm the Labor Commission's decision.


Judith M. Billings, Judge




Pamela T. Greenwood,

Associate Presiding Judge


Russell W. Bench, Judge

1. It is important to note that § 34A-1-301(1997), formerly

§ 35-1-16 (1994), was enacted in 1994, well before Schreiber's 1996 accident. See Act of Indus. Comm'n Auth., ch. 207 §1, 1994 Utah Laws 972. Appellant, in arguing that we must review the Commission's decision for correctness, relies primarily on cases arising before this express grant of discretion was given to the agency by statute.