Workers' Compensation

Rhode Island: Co-Employee Immunity to Tort Liability Extends Even to Instigator of Dangerous Horseplay

The exclusive remedy provision of the Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Act is so strong, held the state’s Supreme Court, that it shielded a co-employee from tort liability in a dangerous incident involving horseplay. The evidence indicated the defendant had noticed that his co-worker was occupying a bathroom stall during a lunch break, found a gasoline canister on the job site, poured some of the gasoline onto the bathroom floor, and lit it, apparently intending it as a practical joke. Some of the gasoline had flowed into the stall area and the ensuing fire caused severe burns to the co-worker. The co-worker, in his tort action, contended that the jokester had been outside the course and scope of the employment and, accordingly, did not enjoy immunity. The Rhode Island court said there was no such exception.

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 Mello v. Killeavy, 2019 R.I. LEXIS 56 (Apr. 23, 2019)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 111.03.

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

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see