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Workers compensation "exclusive remedy" provision upheld

In Stallings v. General Motors Corp., the Court of Appeals again upheld the dismissal of an injury action against the injured employee's employer.  As has been explained in previous web log entries, adoption of the workers compensation scheme resulted in partial immunity for employers' negligence.  People hurt on the job are guaranteed certain benefits including medical expenses and a fraction of their normal wage, but cannot secure complete recovery from their employer, even if the employer is guilty of negligence or gross negligence.

Stallings was hurt at a blind intersection within plant, when he was struck by a hi-lo driver with a history of driving too fast.  The Court concluded that even if the probability of the negligent co-worker injuring someone reached virtual certainty, merely proving a probable injury was not adequate to avoid the employer's immunity.

The trial court had concluded that a question of fact had been pleaded with regard to whether the corporation had "actual knowledge that an injury was certain to occur and had wilfully disregarded that knowledge."  The Appellate court judges rejected this analysis, and also ruled that the injury victim must prove that a particular corporate employee must be proven to possess the incriminatory facts in order to hold the corporation responsible.  The claim could not be proved by a "mere history or probabilities," and [m]ere negligence in failing to protect an employee from foreseeable harm does not satisfy the intentional tort exception to the WDCA [statute]."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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