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Sorensen v. Harbor Bar, LLC

Supreme Court of South Dakota

November 10, 2015

SARAH SORENSEN, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
HARBOR BAR, LLC, Employer and Appellant, and MIDWEST FAMILY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Insurer and Appellant.

CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON OCTOBER 5, 2015

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT HUGHES COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MARK BARNETT Judge

LEE C. "KIT" MCCAHREN of Olinger, Lovald, McCahren & Reimers, P.C. Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for appellee.

STEVEN J. MORGANS SHARLA B. SVENNES of Myers Billion, LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for appellants.

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice

[¶1.] Sarah Sorensen was injured during the scope of her employment at The Harbor Bar (Employer) on December 31, 2009. Approximately a week later, she complained of a sudden onset of headaches and vomiting, which caused her to undergo brain surgery. She filed for workers' compensation benefits but was denied, as Employer alleged that her injuries were the result of a different incident on January 4, 2010. The Department of Labor (Department) conducted a hearing and held that the workplace incident was a major contributing cause of her condition. Employer appealed this ruling to the circuit court, which affirmed in part and remanded in part for clarification of compensable damages. After the Department clarified compensable damages, the circuit court affirmed. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

[¶2.] Sarah Sorensen graduated from high school in Watertown. After high school, Sorensen attended culinary school in Mitchell, but dropped out after a year. Sorensen moved back to Watertown and began living on her own, and took a position as a waitress at the Harbor Bar in late 2009.

[¶3.] While Sorensen was working on New Year's Eve in 2009, a fight broke out in the bar among some customers. Sorensen attempted to break up the fight, and her co-worker Paul Kranz tried to help when he noticed Sorensen getting involved. While trying to intervene, Kranz saw one of the customers hitting another person while the other lay on the floor. Kranz pulled the man off, and discovered that Sorensen was the person being attacked. Sorensen ran to the bathroom to clean herself up, and finished the remainder of her shift. During her shift, several people noticed that Sorensen was getting black eyes. She also complained of a headache.

[¶4.] On the morning of January 7, about a week after the assault, Sorensen suffered an onset of severe headaches and vomiting. Her boyfriend took her to the emergency room, and an MRI revealed a massive intraventricular hemorrhage in her brain. She was transported to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, and underwent brain surgery the next day.

[¶5.] Dr. William Asfora was Sorensen's surgeon, and he performed three separate surgeries on her. The first surgery required Dr. Asfora to insert a temporary drainage tube into Sorensen's brain, while the second surgery entailed inserting a permanent drain. During the third surgery, Dr. Asfora connected blood vessels in the scalp to vessels in the inner brain.

[¶6.] Dr. Asfora performed the third surgery after discovering that Sorensen suffered from moyamoya disease, a vascular disease of the brain. It results in the closing of some major blood vessels in the brain, which results in a network of smaller and less stable vessels growing in an attempt to supply the brain with its necessary nutrients. These small, unstable blood vessels make the brain more prone to bleeding and a person with this condition is at greater risk for a major brain bleed. The Department found that the first two surgeries were results of the accident, but that the third surgery was due to the moyamoya disease alone.

[¶7.] On January 3, 2010, the workplace assault was reported to the Watertown Police. The police took pictures of Sorensen's face, which showed that she had a swollen face and two black eyes. Amanda Greeley, Sorensen's co-worker, saw Sorensen when Sorensen went back to the bar on January 4 to pick up her check. Greeley testified that Sorensen had two black eyes at that time, and was complaining of a headache.

[ΒΆ8.] After the police took the photographs, Detective Timothy Toomey became involved in the investigation of the New Year's Eve assault. Toomey interviewed witnesses to the assault and reviewed Harbor Bar's surveillance ...


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