Smith v. Lannert

429 S.W.2d 8 (Mo. Ct. App. 1968)



Rule 1: The Missouri Workmen's Compensation Act is substitutional and the exclusive remedy for injuries arising out of and sustained in the course of the employment. The fact an injury is the result of a willful or criminal assault of a third person does not prevent that injury from being accidental within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. 15 A.L.R. p. 588. Where an employee sues his employer at common law for personal injuries, the applicability of the Workmen's Compensation Act is an affirmative defense which must be pleaded and to which the burden of proof rests upon the employer. Every statutory element must be shown to make the employer liable under the act in cases where the employee is proceeding thereunder for compensation and the court can conceive of no reason why the same should not be true when the applicability of the act is made a matter of defense. It is a question of fact as to whether or not the case comes within the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 287.120 requires that accidents forming the basis for workmen's compensation proceedings arise "out of and in the course of" the employment. The phrase "out of" the employment refers to the origin or cause of the injury, while "in the course of" the employment refers to the time, place, and circumstances under which the injury was received.


Rule 2: The court views the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff giving her the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom.


Plaintiff employee filed a personal injury action against defendants, her employer and a supervisor. Plaintiff alleged that defendant supervisor denied her request for a break and told her that if she did not get back to work, he would spank her. Plaintiff further alleged that she did not return to work, but proceeded to the ladies room in the employee lounge and that when she got to the door, defendant supervisor pushed her in, bent her over, and struck her on her buttocks three times. The spanking allegedly caused red marks on plaintiff's buttocks. The trial court entered a verdict in plaintiff’s favor against both defendants. Defendant employer was given a judgment on its cross-claim against defendant supervisor. Both defendants appealed the trial court’s judgment. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.


Issue 1: Did the personal injury action filed by plaintiff employee against defendants, her employer and a supervisor, come within the Missouri Workmen’s Compensation Act?


Issue 2: Was there sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that defendant supervisor was within the scope of his employment by defendant employer as submitted in plaintiff’s verdict directing instruction?


Answer 1: No.; Answer 2: Yes.


Conclusion 1: Defendant employer failed its burden of bringing the case within the Missouri Workmen's Compensation Act because its evidence was silent as to the applicability of the Act, and the accident did not arise in the course of employment, as it was undisputed that plaintiff employee was injured while in the process of disobeying defendant supervisor's direct order.


Conclusion 2: The trial court correctly overruled plaintiff employee's contention that no submissible case was made because there was evidence from which the jury could have found that defendant supervisor's act in striking plaintiff was to enforce employee discipline in furtherance of defendant employer’s purpose of keeping an adequate work force on the floor and in maintaining employee discipline.

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