Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Exclusive Remedy Rule Bars Student Worker’s Tort Action

Larson's Spotlight on Exclusive Remedy, Jurisdiction, Dependency Benefits, and Aggravation of Original Injury. Larson's surveys the latest case developments that you need to know about. Thomas A. Robinson, the staff writer for Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, has compiled the list below.

FL: College Student's Tort Action for Injury During Lunch Break From Part-time Job Barred by Exclusive Remedy Rule

A tort action filed against a college by a college student who worked part-time at the college book store, and who was on a lunch break at the time of the accidental injury, was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Florida Workers' Compensation Act, held a state appellate court recently.   Reversing a trial court's decision that had found the student was not an employee of the college, but rather the employee of a separate legal entity that operated the college book store, the appellate court held that the student could be considered the employee of both the college and the book store and that since she was on the employer's premises-the campus-and returning to her job at the time of the injury; her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.

Prior to her employment on a part-time basis, the student entered into a Special Hourly Work Contract with the college. Under the terms of the contract, she agreed to work "where needed."  The contract also indicated that the student understood that the contract could be assigned to an affiliate of the college, "if needed." The student was thereafter assigned to work at the book store, which was an affiliate of the college, but separately incorporated. On the day of the accident, the student took a lunch break and was returning to work at the book store when the bicycle she was riding collided with a college van driven by another student-employee of the college.  The college maintained a single workers' compensation policy for its employees and those of its affiliates.  Citing a line of cases and Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 67.01, the court held that under the circumstances, the student could be considered the employee of both the college and the book store while performing the same work.  Since she was injured on the college's "premises," the campus itself, and since she was returning to her job at the book store, her tort action was barred by exclusivity.

PENSACOLA CHRISTIAN COLLEGE and ROBERT MADDOX, Appellants, v. JOYANNE BRUHN, Appellee 2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 20851 subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 67.01, 68.01.

CT: Home Office With State Is Alone Insufficient to Confer Jurisdiction for Out-of-State Injury Where Office Was For Employee's Own Convenience and Not Mandated by Employer

A Connecticut appellate court recently affirmed the denial of an executrix's claim for benefits where the decedent sustained fatal injuries in an auto accident in New York, entered into his employment contract in New Jersey, and never had any sales territory in Connecticut.  That the decedent maintained a home office in Connecticut was insufficient to establish the necessary ties between the state and the out-of-state fatal injuries; the home office was for the decedent's own convenience and was not mandated by the employer.  The case illustrates the general rule that there must be something more than mere residential status to confer jurisdiction by a state workers' compensation act.

DONNA K. BARON, EXECUTRIX (ESTATE OF ANDREW E. BARON) v. GENLYTE THOMAS GROUP, LLC, ET AL. 2012 Conn. App. LEXIS 2. subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 143.06.

OH: Commission's Decision Denying Dependency Benefits to Parents, Both Mexican Residents, Was Erroneous Where Reasons for Decision Were Not Adequately Explained

An Ohio appellate court recently granted a writ of mandamus and required the state Industrial Commission to vacate its staff hearing officer's order denying a claim for death benefits filed by the parents of the deceased landscaping worker, who sustained fatal injuries in a clearly compensable accident.  The parents were residents of Mexico and maintained that they were totally dependent upon the deceased.  The parents submitted affidavits that they were in poor health and illiterate, but the hearing officer found that dependency had not been established.  The appellate court held that because the Commission did not explain the reasoning for its decision, a full review was impossible.  The Commission's order lacked any mention of the dependency evidence, which was at least persuasive on its face.

State of Ohio ex rel. Milton Gonzalez and Isabel Pano Gomez, Relators, v. Lewis Tree Service Inc., and Industrial Commission of Ohio, Respondents 2011 Ohio App. LEXIS 5623 subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 97.07.

OR: For Purposes of Three-Year Statute of Limitations Regarding Reinstatement, Issue Is Not Whether Aggravation of Original Injury Starts New Limitations Period, But Whether Aggravation Injury Was Itself a Compensable Injury

A worker sustained an original injury in 2002 and the employer accepted her claim.  She filed another claim in 2005, claiming an aggravation of the prior injury.  Thereafter the employer refused to reinstate her to her position, arguing that since more than three years had elapsed since the initial injury, no such reinstatement was required [see ORS 659A.043 and ORS 659A.046]. The worker contended that the aggravation of the 2002 injury in 2005 gave rise to a new three-year statute of limitations.  Alternatively, she contended that the 2005 injury was a new and separate injury warranting a new three-year statute of limitations. The trial court held that an aggravation of an existing injury did not give rise to a new statute of limitations period and the Court of Appeals agreed. It remanded, however, to determine if the 2005 injury was a new and separate injury, which would indeed warrant a statute of limitations period. The Supreme Court affirmed, but with different reasoning.  The Court held the real issue was whether the worker suffered a compensable injury in 2005, and not whether aggravated injuries should or should not be excluded by statute of limitations. Since a reasonable juror could conclude that the worker had suffered a compensable injury in 2005, the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer was erroneous.

NANCY E. PETOCK, Petitioner on Review, v. ASANTE, formerly known as ASANTE HEATH SYSTEM dba ROGUE VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER, a domestic nonprofit corporation, Respondent on Review 2011 Ore. LEXIS 996 subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 126.13.

Source: Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the nation's leading authority on workers' compensation law.

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