Doyon Universal Services v. Allen, No. S-8956.

CourtSupreme Court of Alaska (US)
Writing for the CourtCARPENETI, Justice.
Citation999 P.2d 764
Docket NumberNo. S-8956.
Decision Date14 April 2000
PartiesDOYON UNIVERSAL SERVICES and Alaska National Insurance Company, Appellants, v. Lawrence ALLEN and the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board, Appellees.

999 P.2d 764

DOYON UNIVERSAL SERVICES and Alaska National Insurance Company, Appellants,
v.
Lawrence ALLEN and the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board, Appellees

No. S-8956.

Supreme Court of Alaska.

April 14, 2000.


999 P.2d 766
Richard L. Wagg, Russell, Tesche, Wagg, Cooper & Gabbert, Anchorage, for Appellant

Joseph A. Kalamarides, Kalamarides & Associates, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before MATTHEWS, Chief Justice, EASTAUGH, FABE, BRYNER, and CARPENETI, Justices.

OPINION

CARPENETI, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Doyon Universal Services and Alaska National Insurance Company (collectively, "Doyon") appeal the determination of the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board that Lawrence Allen's small bowel obstruction was work-connected and that the Brussels sprouts he ingested at Doyon's facility were a "substantial factor" in causing his disability. Because substantial evidence supports the Board's determination, we affirm.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

Lawrence Allen was employed as a cook by Doyon at a remote site on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. While he was on duty, Allen lived in an on-site dormitory and took his meals at the employee cafeteria. These employer-provided facilities are the only available room and board for the employees who work at the site.

On August 21, 1997, Allen traveled from his home in Anchorage to the pump station to begin a two-week rotation. He moved his belongings into his assigned room and went to the company cafeteria for dinner. At approximately 6:00 p.m., Allen ate a meal of pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, and "three or four" Brussels sprouts.

At 8:00 p.m. that night, Allen began his shift in the kitchen. Two hours later, he began to feel pain in his stomach. As the night progressed, his pains worsened and he began to feel nauseous. When his shift ended at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, Allen called the camp medic. When he saw the medic, Allen had a terrible stomachache, was vomiting, and had blood in his stool. From that time until the following day, Allen vomited frequently and had a form of diarrhea that was infused with blood.

999 P.2d 767
On August 23, 1997, Allen was taken via medivac flight to Anchorage, where he was admitted to the Alaska Native Medical Center. There, it was determined that Allen had a complete obstruction of the small bowel caused by two bezoars1 in his small intestine. Surgeon Frank Sacco surgically removed the obstruction in Allen's intestine. Dr. Sacco's post-operative report revealed that the bezoars contained dense necrotic vegetable matter, including traces of undigested Brussels sprouts

Allen was released to work in November 1997. He has not experienced continuing problems associated with the incident.

B. Proceedings

Allen filed a report of injury with Doyon on September 5, 1997. Doyon responded by filing a Controversion Notice with the Alaska Department of Labor in which it refused to pay Allen benefits on the grounds that his condition did not arise in the course and scope of his employment.

On October 8, 1997, Allen filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Department of Labor, seeking temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial impairment benefits, medical benefits, transportation costs, reemployment benefits, interest, attorneys' fees, and legal costs. This claim was heard by the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board in Anchorage on May 12, 1998. Allen testified. The depositions of Allen's then-treating physician, Stephen Livingston, M.D., and Doyon's medical expert, Steven Kilkenny, M.D., were also submitted as evidence. Pursuant to a stipulation made by the parties at a March 1998 prehearing conference, the Board limited its inquiry to whether Allen's intestinal obstruction constituted a compensable injury occurring within the course and scope of his employment.

In a split decision filed on June 5, 1998, the Board found Allen's claim compensable, which entitled him to workers' compensation benefits under AS 23.30.

Doyon appealed the Board's decision to the superior court, which affirmed the Board's decision.

This appeal followed.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

This court independently reviews the merits of an agency determination and does not defer to the decision of a superior court acting as an intermediate court of appeal.2

We review the Board's factual determinations under the "substantial evidence" test,3 which requires us to determine "whether there is substantial evidence, in light of the whole record, such that a reasonable mind might accept the board's decision."4 When applying this test, we independently review the evidence to determine whether the Board's conclusion was based on substantial evidence.5 However, our determination is limited only to whether such evidence exists;6 we neither reweigh the evidence nor choose between competing factual inferences.7 We have held that "if the Board

999 P.2d 768
is faced with two or more conflicting medical opinions—each of which constitutes substantial evidence—and elects to rely upon one opinion rather than the other, we will affirm the Board's decision."8

B. Substantial Evidence Supports the Board's Finding that Allen Proved, by a Preponderance of the Evidence, that His Injury Is Compensable.9

Employees are entitled to receive workers' compensation whenever they suffer injury arising out of and in the course of their employment.10 Injuries that have both work-related and non-work-related causes are deemed compensable if the employer's actions were a "substantial factor" in causing the injury.11

1. Substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that Allen was injured within the course and scope of his employment.

Under the Alaska Workers' Compensation Act,12 an employer is required to pay compensation to an employee who suffers an injury "arising out of and in the course of employment," regardless of fault.13 An injury has arisen "out of and in the course of employment" if it occurred during (1) "employer-required or supplied travel to and from a remote job site"; (2) "activities performed at the direction or under the control of the employer"; or (3) "employer-sanctioned activities at employer-provided facilities."14

In the instant case, the Board found that Allen's injury occurred in an "employer sanctioned activity" in an "employer provided facility," and therefore concluded that his injury was within the course and scope of his employment. While it is undisputed that Allen ate the Brussels sprouts in an employer-provided facility, Doyon contests the Board's conclusion that Allen's act of eating was an "employer-sanctioned activity."

Because of the unique situation that remote worksites present,15 we have adopted

999 P.2d 769
a particularly expansive view of "work-connectedness,"16 which we have articulated in the now-familiar "remote site" doctrine. The crux of this doctrine is that everyday activities that are normally considered non-work-related are deemed a part of a remote site employee's job for workers' compensation purposes because the requirement of living at the remote site limits the employee's activity choices.17 As we have stated
because a worker at a remote site is required, as a condition of employment, to eat, sleep and socialize on the work premises, activities normally divorced from his work become part of the working conditions to which the worker is subjected.18

We have used this doctrine to extend workers' compensation coverage to injuries sustained by remote site employees while engaged in recreational pursuits,19 and while running personal errands that were "reasonably contemplated and foreseeable by the employment situation."20

Here, Allen's act of eating the Brussels sprouts was a direct consequence of the limitations of working at a remote site. It is undisputed that the only food available on the premises was at the employer-provided cafeteria. Allen therefore had no personal choices as to where he should eat; he also had no access to a restaurant, grocery store, or kitchen facilities for his personal use. Unlike eating at home, Allen had little or no choice as to what he could eat, how it would be prepared, who would prepare it, or the quality of the ingredients. The limits placed on Allen's choices are further evident in the fact that he does not cook or eat Brussels sprouts at home; rather, the only vegetable dish he prepares is Costco's "California Blend," which contains corn, string beans, lima beans, broccoli and cauliflower. Because Allen's act of eating the Brussels sprouts was "an activity choice made as a result of limited activities offered at a remote site,"21 it is precisely the type of activity the "remote site" doctrine was meant to cover.22

999 P.2d 770
For these reasons, Allen's act of eating in the cafeteria was incident to his employment under the "remote site" doctrine. Because the facts surrounding Allen's eating options are undisputed, substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that Allen has proven this aspect of his case by a preponderance of the evidence.

2. Substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that the Brussels sprouts were a substantial factor in causing Allen's injury.

Doyon also argues that it should not be held liable for Allen's...

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16 practice notes
  • Springer v. United States, 3:20-CV-3088-B (BH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • October 19, 2021
    ...are deemed compensable if the employer’s actions were a ‘substantial factor’ in causing the injury.” Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 768 (Alaska 2000) (citation omitted). Thus, because Plaintiff’s prison employment was a substantial factor of his asbestos and mold exposure, t......
  • Copeland v. State, Cfec, No. S-12275.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2007
    ...Inc., 851 P.2d 69, 72 (Alaska 1993); Miller v. ITT Arctic Servs., 577 P.2d 1044, 1046 (Alaska 1978). 44. Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 771 (Alaska 45. See Brandal v. State, Commercial Fisheries Entry Comm'n, 128 P.3d 732, 738 (Alaska 2006) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U......
  • Nickels v. Napolilli, No. S-9243
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • August 17, 2001
    ...23.30.230(b). 59. The superior court applied the "remote-site" doctrine to make its ruling. See generally Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 768-69 (Alaska 2000) (discussing remote-site 60. A claim is moot "if the party bringing the action would not be entitled to any relief eve......
  • State v. Shea, Supreme Court No. S-15787
    • United States
    • Alaska Supreme Court
    • April 21, 2017
    ...persons would regard the injury as a cause of the disability and attach responsibility to it" (quoting Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 770 (Alaska 2000) )).15 Id. ; see also Smith v. Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks, 172 P.3d 782, 792 (Alaska 2007) (noting reviewing court can permi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Springer v. United States, 3:20-CV-3088-B (BH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • October 19, 2021
    ...are deemed compensable if the employer’s actions were a ‘substantial factor’ in causing the injury.” Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 768 (Alaska 2000) (citation omitted). Thus, because Plaintiff’s prison employment was a substantial factor of his asbestos and mold exposure, t......
  • Copeland v. State, Cfec, No. S-12275.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2007
    ...Inc., 851 P.2d 69, 72 (Alaska 1993); Miller v. ITT Arctic Servs., 577 P.2d 1044, 1046 (Alaska 1978). 44. Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 771 (Alaska 45. See Brandal v. State, Commercial Fisheries Entry Comm'n, 128 P.3d 732, 738 (Alaska 2006) (citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U......
  • Nickels v. Napolilli, No. S-9243
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • August 17, 2001
    ...23.30.230(b). 59. The superior court applied the "remote-site" doctrine to make its ruling. See generally Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 768-69 (Alaska 2000) (discussing remote-site 60. A claim is moot "if the party bringing the action would not be entitled to any relief eve......
  • State v. Shea, Supreme Court No. S-15787
    • United States
    • Alaska Supreme Court
    • April 21, 2017
    ...persons would regard the injury as a cause of the disability and attach responsibility to it" (quoting Doyon Universal Servs. v. Allen, 999 P.2d 764, 770 (Alaska 2000) )).15 Id. ; see also Smith v. Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks, 172 P.3d 782, 792 (Alaska 2007) (noting reviewing court can permi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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