CT: Employee's Tort Case Against Corporate Officers/Shareholders for Parking Lot Injuries May Proceed

Anne Marie Roy, an employee of Dymax, sustained injuries when she fell in the parking lot located at her employer's place of business. She sought and received workers' compensation benefits and, joined by her husband as a party plaintiff, she subsequently filed a civil action against the defendants, who owned the employment premises and the adjacent the parking lot and who leased it to Dymax. The plaintiffs alleged negligence and loss of consortium. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiffs’ action was barred by the exclusivity remedy provisions of the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment in their favor.

Observing that Dymax had some 61 shareholders, that two-thirds of the stock was owned by the two defendants, and that both defendants were Dymax corporate officers, the trial court held that the defendants should be considered Roy's employer, at least for purposes of the exclusive remedy defense.

Here's what the Connecticut Appellate Court decided:

In Roy v. Bachman, AC 30522 (May 18, 2010), the majority of the Appellate Court held that the trial court had misconstrued the plaintiffs’ complaint as a claim against Anne Marie Roy’s employer and that a fair reading of the plaintiffs' allegations did not support such a conclusion. Speaking for the majority, Judge Bishop indicated that the fact that defendants had a stock interest in and served as officers of Dymax did not, in and of itself, provide any basis for concluding that they, and not Dymax, were Roy’s employer. The plaintiffs simply were asserting a premises liability claim against the defendants as landowners. Quoting the discussion of the dual capacity doctrine contained in Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, Judge Bishop observed further that the trial court's assumption that plaintiffs were relying upon the doctrine was misplaced; the dual capacity doctrine would have been germane only if the allegations of plaintiffs' complaint had asserted some sort of liability on the part of an employer. Without reference to an employer in the allegations, there was no place for consideration of the doctrine.

Judge West dissented, indicating that the majority had concluded that because the defendants possessed a landowner persona and the plaintiff was an employee of Dymax at the time of her injury, the defendants could under no circumstance be considered as Roy’s employer for the purposes of the application of the exclusivity rule, and, therefore, the rule did not shield them from this action. Judge West saw no reason to adhere to such an analysis.