Federal: Worker’s Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim is Not Barred by Exclusive Remedy Provisions of California Labor Code

Federal: Worker’s Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim is Not Barred by Exclusive Remedy Provisions of California Labor Code

Generally, a federal district court must follow any precedent set by its Circuit Court of Appeal, rather than that of an intermediate appellate court in the state whose law is being construed.  To illustrate that point, at least under some fact patterns, there is such a divergence between the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Robards v. Gaylord Bros., Inc., 854 F.2d 1152, 1157 (9th Cir. 1988) (interpreting Cole v. Fair Oaks Fire Protection Dist., 43 Cal.3d 148, 233 Cal. Rptr. 308, 729 P.2d 743 (1987)) and a decision of one of California’s courts of appeal (see Robomatic, Inc., v. Vetco Offshore, 225 Cal.App.3d 270, 275, 275 Cal. Rptr. 70 (1990)).  Robards holds that a tort claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) is not barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the California Labor Code, while Robomatic holds otherwise, at least under some fact patterns. Following Robards, a federal district court in California has held that the portion of a plaintiff’s claim alleging NIED is not barred.  Moreover, since the NIED claim was based on sexual harassment—conduct that violates California public policy and is, therefore, beyond the normal risks of the employer and employee relationship—even under Robomatic, the civil action would not have been barred, indicated the federal court.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Garcia v. Terra Firma Farms, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105602 (July 31, 2014) [2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105602 (July 31, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 104.05 [104.05]

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

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