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Injured worker can sue subsidiary corporation that owned truck operated by fellow employee

An injured employee normally cannot sue his employer for an on-the-job injury.  Because the employee is eligible for workers compensation, Michigan law allows him to sue the employer for additional compensation only when the injury is suffered as a result of an employer's "intent to cause injury."  Defendant Trans-Porte, Inc., attempted to take this "exclusive remedy" defense one step further and apply it to a wholly-owned subsidiary of the employer, U.S. Foodservice, Inc.

The Estate of Jonathan Baker sued Trans-Porte after the decedent was struck and killed by a truck operated by a co-worker at the U.S. Foodservice facility.  The truck was titled to Trans-Porte and was actually leased from Fifth Third.  Trans-Porte admitted that it was the registered owner of the truck and that it was not the employer of Mr. Baker, but maintained that it should still have the benefit of the "exclusive remedy" provisions of the workers compensation law.  After a consideration of the related issues, the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals held that it would not "pierce the corporate veil" and ignore the corporate entities created by the Defendants, in order to provide the subsidiary with legal protection from suit.  For purposes of the owner liability act, the vehicle owner would not be allowed to side-step its earlier admissions, to ignore its tax-planning corporate status and to evade its ownership liability.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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