Waitress Blew Out Knee When Checking On Her Dogs, but Appellate Court Says No to Worker's Comp Benefits

Merry Shaydak went to work as usual at the Mexico border on a very chilly March day in 2010.

Cute dog photo #6,432

​She was a waitress at the Turquoise Valley Golf and RV Park in Naco, which sits right on the line a few miles south of Bisbee.


Shaydak brought her two dogs to work with her that day, saying later that she was sure they would be warmer in her car than stuck outside at home.

That was mistake number one.

She parked in the employee lot and got permission from her supervisor to check on the pups once in the morning and again about 1:30 p.m. During the afternoon check, Shaydak decided on the spur of the moment to scale the five-foot chain-link fence that surrounded the lot. Later, she said she'd done so to save time and get back to work sooner,

But Shaydak landed wrong and blew out her right knee so badly that it required surgery.

Now for the legal part:

Shaydak later filed a worker's comp claim that her employer denied. She appealed, but an administrative law judge sided with the restaurant, concluding that the woman had failed to prove "that her injuries arose out of and in the course of employment."

Undeterred, Shaydak asked the Arizona Court of Appeals to consider the case, which it did before issuing its ruling last Thursday, a decisive 3-0 opinion against the dog lover.

Judge Margaret Downie wrote that the panel just didn't buy that checking on the dogs was a "personal comfort activity" approved by Shaydak's supervisor, or that the waitress' "actions in jumping over the fence did not violate any law or company policy."

Taking the ill-fated shortcut was "sufficiently unreasonable to remove Shaydak's actions from the course of employment," Judge Downie wrote. In other words, sorry, sweetie, you should have taken the long way around to your car.

Not stopping there, the appellate court concluded that business had been slow at the restaurant and that Shaydak shouldn't have been in any particular rush to get back because other waitresses were covering for her.

Life, as they say, can be a bitch.