Workers' Compensation

Maine: Dual Persona Doctrine Cannot Shield Related Entity from Tort Liability

The dual persona doctrine, under which an injured employee may sometimes be allowed to sue the employer in tort if the employer possesses a second “persona” sufficiently independent from and unrelated to its status as employer, may not be utilized “in reverse” by an entity seeking to shield itself from tort liability in a negligence action filed against it by a worker it does not employ, held the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the denial of a motion for summary judgment filed by a real estate holding company that was owned by one of the principals and officers of a lumber company that, in turn, employed the plaintiff as a yard worker. The worker sustained injuries in the course of his employment and filed a civil action against the real estate holding company. It contended that it should be shielded because it did not owe the worker any duty that was distinct from the duties owed him by the actual employer—the lumber company. The Court said the defendant was trying to stand the dual persona doctrine “on its head” [Opinion, ¶ 15]. Citing earlier decisions that had quoted Larson's Workers' Compensation Law[current § 113.01, et seq.], the Court said the doctrine did not apply. The Court also refused to consider the economic reality test or the alter ego test that had been adopted in some other states. 

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. 

See Clark v. Benton, LLC, 2018 Me. LEXIS 100, 2018 ME 99 (July 17, 2018)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 113.02.

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