Workers' Compensation

Larson’s Spotlight on Recent Cases: Civil Action Against Supervisor Moves Forward

Larson's Spotlight on Civil Action Against Co-Employee, Exclusive Remedy, Volunteer Status, and Causation Involving Fatal Overdose. 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.

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MD: Appellate Court Allows Civil Action Against Supervisor To Move Forward

Forty-five of the fifty states extend the doctrine of exclusive remedy so as to protect not only the employer, but co-employees, from civil action by an injured worker so long as the co-employee is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the worker's injury. Maryland is one of the five states that do not provide such broad immunity to co-employees. The Maryland rule is that a supervisor is immune from a civil action if the basis of the alleged tort is the supervisor's performance of some non-delegable duty owed by the employer, but otherwise, as a "mere" co-employee, the supervisor is subject to civil suit.

In a recent Maryland case, a state appellate court reversed a trial court's decision and held that under the facts of the case, a civil action filed by an injured worker against his supervisor could proceed. The supervisor-defendant worked, along with the injured worker, in the employer's tire center. The supervisor was in the process of moving a customer's vehicle from a parking space in the employer's parking lot to a service bay inside the employer's service area when he struck a vehicle being operated by the plaintiff-employee. The defendant asserted that, as a supervisor performing a non-delegable duty of the employer in the course of his employment, he was immune from civil suit by a co-employee. The appellate court, quoting Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, provided an extensive discussion of the issues and held that if the defendant supervisor had delegated the task to another, he would have been immune. Rather than delegate the duty, however, the supervisor undertook to move the car himself. In that action, he was not acting as a supervisor, but as a mere co-employee. As a driver of a vehicle, he accordingly owed a personal duty of care to all other travelers, including his co-employee, the plaintiff.

See Haves v. Pratchett, 2012 Md. App. LEXIS 63 (June 5, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 111.02.

NM: State Workers' Compensation Act Was Exclusive Remedy for Death From Disease Associated With Pigeon Droppings

A New Mexico appellate court recently held that while an employee's death from psittacosis, a disease contracted from pigeons roosting in the warehouse where he worked, was not covered by the state's Occupational Disease Disablement Law, it was compensable under the state's Workers' Compensation Act and, therefore, a wrongful death action filed by the worker's widow against the employer was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Act. The court concluded that, even though the causation was unusual, the injury was sufficiently connected to his employment for recovery to be exclusively covered by the Act.

See Castillo v. Caprock Pipe & Supply, Inc., 2012 N.M. App. LEXIS 52 (May 30, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 42.03.

OK: Computer Programmer Was No "Volunteer" While Cutting Employer's Grass

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently vacated and reversed a decision of the state's Civil Court of Appeals that had held a computer programmer's heart attack while performing lawn work for his employer on the employer's premises did not arise in the course of the programmer's employment. The employer contended that the programmer was a volunteer at the time of the heart attack and was not engaged in employment activity. The high court observed that the employer specifically asked for volunteers to help with the yard work to make the grounds look nice upcoming company event. The programmer and his thirteen-year-old son performed the duties and the employer then hired the programmer's thirteen-year-old son to continue the yard work. While the claimant received no additional pay for the yard work, his son was paid $40.00. The court noted also that the employer's yard crew had quit and the claimant was performing that task to help out the employer, at the employer's request. The yard work was for the benefit of the employer and was not in furtherance of a personal mission. The accidental injury arose out of and was within the course of his employment.

See Yzer, Inc. v. Rodr, 2012 OK 50, 2012 Okla. LEXIS 50 (June 5, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 27.04.

CT: Fatal Overdose of Medications Prescribed for Compensable Injury Was Not Causally Connected to Original Injury

Quoting Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the Supreme Court of Connecticut recently upheld a commissioner's finding that the decedent's ingestion of excessive quantities of prescribed medications, Oxycodone and Seroquel, broke the chain of causation between the decedent's compensable injury and his subsequent death. Acknowledging that three months before the worker's death, the decedent sustained a compensable back injury, for which he was prescribed Oxycodone, and that one week prior to his death, the decedent was prescribed Seroquel, an antipsychotic medication, for depression and racing thoughts, the high court indicated substantial evidence supported the commissioner's determination (upheld by the compensation review board) that the excessive ingestion constituted an intervening event and that the compensable injury was, therefore, not the proximate cause of death.

See Sapko v. State, 2012 Conn. LEXIS 227 (June 12, 2012).

See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, § 10.01.

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

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