Law School Case Brief
Bazley v. Tortorich - 397 So. 2d 475 (La. 1981)
The Supreme Court of Louisiana construes La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23:1032 as providing that the exclusive remedy rule shall be inapplicable to intentional torts or offenses. The meaning of intent in this context is that the defendant either desired to bring about the physical results of his act or believed they were substantially certain to follow from what he did. In order to recover, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant desired the physical results of his act in every case. Intent is not, however, limited to consequences which are desired. If the actor knows that the consequences are certain, or substantially certain, to result from his act, and still goes ahead, he is treated by the law as if he had in fact desired to produce the result.
Plaintiff Sidney Bazley, a Jefferson Parish garbage worker, filed suit against defendants, an unidentified co-employee truck driver, the co-employee's insurer, Sardo Tortorich and Tortorich's insurer as result of work-related injuries Bazley received when he was struck by Tortorich's car while he was mounting the back of a garbage truck. In his petition, as supplemented and amended, Bazley alleged that the accident was caused by his co-employee's intentional acts in operating a garbage truck without a working horn, disregarding mechanical and electrical maintenance standards, failing to keep a lookout, failing to see what he should have seen, failing to stop in a safe place and failing to warn Bazley of danger. Bazley did not allege, however, that the co-employee desired the consequences of his acts or believed that they were substantially certain to follow his acts. The trial court sustained an exception of no cause of action to Bazley's suit against the garbage truck driver on the ground that it constituted a negligence action against a co-employee based on a work-related injury in contravention of the exclusive remedy rule of the Compensation Act. The court of appeal reversed, holding that compensation was an employee's exclusive remedy against his employer but the compensation statute (La.R.S. 23:1032) constitutionally could not be interpreted to bar his suit in tort against other persons.
Did the court of appeals err by finding that he worker's compensation statute, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23:1032, as amended by 1976 La. Acts 147, had to be interpreted to permit an employee the same remedy in tort against co-workers for negligently caused work-related injuries as the employee would have if injured by any other tortfeasor?
The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's decision and reinstated the trial court's judgment. The court held that the worker's compensation statute was amended by Act 147 of 1976 to preclude suits by an employee to recover for work-related injuries from certain designated persons, including a fellow employee engaged at the time of injury in the normal course and scope of employment, unless the injury resulted from the co-worker's intentional tortious act. The court rejected Bazley's contention that an "intentional act" should be equated with a "voluntary act." The court held that the Bazley's petition failed to state a cause of action because it did not claim that the co-worker intended the consequences of his acts or omissions. The court also held that § 23:1032 did not violate Bazley's constitutional rights because the exclusive remedy rule was rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.
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