Five Recent Workers’ Comp Cases You Should Know About (7/8/2011) – Supreme Court Says FELA Does Not Use Common Law Concept of Proximate Cause

Larson's Spotlight on FELA, Malicious Prosecution, Tort Action Against Employer, Jones Act, and Retaliatory Termination. 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.

US: Supreme Court Says FELA Does Not Use Common Law Concept of "Proximate Cause"

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States recently held that the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C.S. § 51, et seq. does not incorporate proximate cause standards developed in non-statutory common law tort actions.  A federal district court's jury instruction that indicated the defendant railroad would be liable if its negligence "played a part—no matter how small—in bringing about the injury" was, therefore, not erroneous.  Under FELA, injury was proximately caused by the railroad's negligence if that negligence play any part in causing the injury. 

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 U.S. LEXIS 4795. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven’t registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 147.01.

MA: Insurer Not Immune From Malicious Prosecution Claim Filed by Injured Employee

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently held that a worker could maintain a tort action against his employer's workers' compensation carrier on theories of, among other things, malicious prosecution, infliction of emotional distress, and abuse of process regarding the company's conduct in referring his claim to the state insurance fraud bureau, for communicating with fraud investigators and prosecutors regarding his activity and claim, and for using criminal processes to gain leverage in dealings with him.  The carrier sought summary judgment, contending the tort action was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Act.  The high court indicated that while the carrier enjoyed qualified immunity regarding its reporting of potentially fraudulent activity, at least some of the worker's allegations related to conduct clearly outside the workers' compensation setting.  The trial court appropriately denied summary judgment and the case should, therefore, move forward for trial.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 Mass. LEXIS 453. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven’t registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 104.01.

DE: Truck Driver's Injuries Sustained While Sleeping In Berth of Truck Were Within Course of Employment; Tort Action Against Employer Barred

Where a worker injured her knee in a clearly compensable incident, had surgery, returned to work for a time and then took early retirement, she could not recover additional workers' compensation disability benefits thirteen years later since she had not sought employment in the interim and substantial evidence supported a finding that her retirement was related to a non-work related back injury, held the Supreme Court of Delaware recently.  The court stressed that had her "voluntary" retirement been caused by her work-related knee injury, the outcome would have been entirely different.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 Del. LEXIS 342. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven’t registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 84.02.

LA: State-Employed Seaman May Sue State of Louisiana Under Jones Act

An injured, state-employed seaman in Louisiana can sue the state under the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104 et seq.) in state court; his claim for damages is not governed exclusively by the provisions of the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Act, held the Supreme Court of Louisiana recently. Noting that under the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 144 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999), a state's sovereign immunity operates to prevent individuals from suing the state for federal remedies in state court absent that state's consent, the state supreme court indicated the self-executing waiver of immunity found in Article Xii, Section 10(A) of the Louisiana Constitution was sufficiently broad so as to allow the seaman's action. That he was a state employee made no difference.

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 La. LEXIS 1591. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven’t registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 146.01.

US: Firing Not Retaliatory Where Termination Was Based on Injured Worker's Statement That He Might Not Pass Drug Test

Although the evidence indicated the worker was terminated shortly after his workplace injury, the worker failed to present sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable jury could conclude that he was fired in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim where it appeared he was fired following his post-accident statement that he might not pass a drug test and he subsequently refused to sign an agreement requiring him to undergo counseling and random drug testing to retain his job. The worker made no showing that the employer's proffered reason for terminating him was a lie to cover up retaliation. 

FREE VERSION: Access the case on lexisONE free case law. Click on tab for Free Case Law. Click on the radio button for Search by Citation. Enter this citation: 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 13247. Then click on the red button Search for Free. Note: If you haven’t registered for free at lexisONE, you will be prompted to do so in order to access the free case law.

FULLY FEATURED VERSION: Lexis.com subscribers can read the fully featured case here. See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 104.07.

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

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site.