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A divided Supreme Court of Utah held that a dispute of a material fact precluded summary judgment in an intentional tort action filed by a plaintiff-employee against the employer where the employee produced evidence that when another worker added sulfuric acid to an open-air pit containing waste materials produced at the employer’s refinery earlier that same day, a chemical reaction produced a poisonous gas that triggered emergency alarms located 150 feet from the pit and made workers in other areas of the refinery sick. A reasonable jury could have concluded that at least one of the operator’s managers knew that the plaintiff-employee would be injured when her supervisor instructed her to initiate that same process. The majority indicated the intentional tort exception to exclusivity distinguishes between intentional acts resulting in unknown or unexpected injuries, which are covered under the Act by workers’ compensation, and intentional acts resulting in known or expected injuries, which fall within the intentional injury exception. Citing Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the majority also held that the employee’s earlier receipt of workers’ compensation benefits was not an election of remedies that would bar her tort recovery, although if her tort action proved successful, the employer would be allowed a credit for benefits already paid.
Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).
LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.
See Helf v. Chevron, U.S.A., 2015 UT 81, 2015 Utah LEXIS 227 (Sept. 4, 2015) [2015 UT 81, 2015 Utah LEXIS 227 (Sept. 4, 2015)]
See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, §§ 103.04, 115.03 [103.04, 115.03]
Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.
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