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Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc. – Exclusive Remedy of Workers’ Compensation

Workers who suffer on-the-job injuries are generally and with few exceptions entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.constructionsite2

But these benefits will only cover a portion of lost wages and medical bills. In cases of fatal injuries, they may cover funeral expenses and support for immediate and financially-dependent family. They do not account for one’s pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. In most cases, the exclusive remedy provision prevents workers from suing their employer or co-workers for additional compensation except in the most egregious of circumstances.

There may be an opportunity in some situations to explore third-party litigation, but that is something that has to be considered carefully with your Boston workers’ compensation attorney. The question of who is an “employer” and who is a “co-worker” can get murky on job sites where there may be numerous entities and individuals present. The pre-arranged agreements made prior to the work accident could determine whether there is an opportunity to pursue third-party litigation. 

Massachusetts isn’t unique with its exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation, and the recent case of Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc., before the Missouri Supreme Court, shows some of the challenges that can arise with this type of claim.

According to court records, a worker and his wife filed a personal injury lawsuit against a supervisory co-employee, alleging he was negligent in causing an accident that resulted in catastrophic and permanent injuries to the worker/ plaintiff. It was alleged the co-worker held a duty to him that was separate from their shared employer’s non-delegable duty to provide a safe work place.

It’s worth noting that at the time of the accident, Missouri common law did allow co-employees to be liable to their fellow workers for breaches of duty that were owed independently of the master-servant relationship. Both plaintiff and defendant worked for a contracting company that provides products and services to general contractors in the construction industry. One of the services offered was delivery of dowel baskets, 200-pound rebar paver baskets that are used in construction with concrete. When the baskets were shipped, they were allegedly stacked one top of of the other without any bracing, warning or other precautionary measures. Defendant reportedly received notice from other workers that this was a potential safety hazard. Despite this, he ordered that the baskets be taken to a construction site on a truck just as they were.

One of those stacks fell onto plaintiff, who suffered permanent and catastrophic injuries.

Plaintiff sued for negligence and his wife for loss of consortium. They alleged the supervisor co-worker allowed the baskets to be transported unsafely, failed to inspect the baskets for proper bracing and secure transport and unloading, failed to provide plaintiff enough help for the job, did not adequately train workers, didn’t give a proper space for unloading the baskets and allowed unsafe actions to be standard operating procedure.

Defense moved for summary judgement, arguing the claims were barred under the exclusive remedy provision of the state’s workers’ compensation law. Trial court agreed and the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed on appeal.

The problem was plaintiff had not alleged any conduct by the supervisory co-employee that was outside of the inherent duty by the employer to provide a safe workplace.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Peters v. Wady Industries, Inc., June 7, 2016, Missouri Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Report: Second Worker Injured in Work Basket Collapse, June 18, 2016, Massachusetts Work Accident Lawyer Blog