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Conner v. City of Danville

Court of Appeals of Virginia

April 23, 2019

SHANNON CONNER
v.
CITY OF DANVILLE

          FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          Michael A. Kernbach for appellant.

          Roberta Ann Perko (Christopher M. Kite; Lucas & Kite, PLC, on brief), for appellee.

          Present: Judges Beales, O'Brien and Senior Judge Annunziata Argued at Alexandria, Virginia

          OPINION

          RANDOLPH A. BEALES JUDGE

         Appellant Shannon Conner, a former corporal for the City of Danville Police Department, appeals the decision of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission (the Commission) denying her benefits for injuries that occurred when she slipped on wet grass and almost fell while seeking additional shelter from a storm. On appeal, Conner argues that the Commission erred in concluding that her injuries did not arise out of her employment, in finding that her injuries were caused by an Act of God, and in concluding that Code § 65.2-301.1 did not apply to make her injuries compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act.

         I. Background

         Conner filed several claims with the Commission for medical benefits and for periods of wage loss benefits, alleging that she had sustained a compensable injury by accident to her right knee and lower back on February 24, 2016, while she was working as a corporal for the City of Danville Police Department.

         The evidence presented at the hearing before the deputy commissioner on Conner's claims showed that, on February 24, 2016, Conner and other officers from the City of Danville Police Department were conducting surveillance at a duplex. During the surveillance, the officers located a homicide suspect. Conner and a fellow officer, Corporal Valerie Jennings, began interviewing the suspect on the sidewalk outside the duplex. They were going to move the location of the interview to the inside of a police vehicle when Corporal Jennings suggested that they continue the interview on the porch of the vacant side of the duplex, while the other officers executed a search warrant on the residence on the duplex's other side. The porches of the duplex were separated by a partition.

         Conner testified that the weather changed quickly during the interview of the suspect. She stated that "it started raining really hard" and "the wind started picking up a great deal" and that it began hailing. The deputy commissioner in her opinion noted that, in a deposition taken prior to the hearing, Conner testified that "it was a tornado moving through." She stated that, because of the change in the weather, they decided to leave the porch and move the interview to the other side of the residence where the search warrant was being executed. Conner testified:

We had decided that we were going to try to move the suspect over to that area [the other side of the duplex], so Investigator Jennings is behind me. The suspect took off, went off the porch, and I took a left turn off of the porch onto the grassy area. It was hail[ing] and it was raining. I proceeded to try to get inside when I slipped, my right leg went towards the right, and the left side of my body twisted. I almost fell, but I didn't completely fall. I caught myself just before hitting the ground. And then I picked back up and started running back into the residen[ce].

         Conner explained that she "was running. Well I guess you would say trotting," at the time that she almost fell.[1]

         Neither Conner nor Jennings continued interviewing the suspect after they left the porch. Instead, Conner testified that, when they reached the other side of the duplex, they "were just simply in there, assisting on the search warrant itself." The deputy commissioner noted that, in Conner's deposition testimony, Conner agreed that the purpose of leaving the porch was to get out of the weather.

         Conner testified that as the day continued, her knee became painful, and she reported her injury to her supervisor. She sought medical treatment later that day and eventually learned, through her continued treatment, that three discs in her back had apparently been affected by her near fall and that there was "a pinched nerve involved." She underwent back surgery on July 14, 2016. On October 17, 2016, one of Conner's physicians informed her that, even though her condition may improve, she would not be able to perform all of the necessary ...


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