Coworkers' method of travel is critical to employment status, immunity analysis
Honeysuckle v. Curtis H. Stout, Inc., et al., No. CA08-1073 (Ark. Ct. App. 10/21/09).
The Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed the Workers' Compensation Commission's finding that a coworker was the employer of the deceased employee and was entitled to workers' compensation immunity.
What it means:
Under Arkansas law, coworkers are not automatically entitled to workers' compensation immunity when they injure a colleague. They are protected from suit only if they were providing a required employment service.
Summary: Two employees were involved in a plane crash in one employee's private plane while traveling back from a business meeting. The wife of the deceased employee filed a wrongful-death action against the pilot. The Court of Appeals rejected the pilot's arguments that he was immune from suit as the "employer" because he had undertaken the employer's duty to provide a safe workplace.
The court reasoned that the employer did not direct or control the means of travel, and more specifically, did not control or direct the pilot in maintaining and operating the plane with reasonable care. Although the employees' travel to the meeting was obligatory and advanced the employer's interests, the specific means of getting there was not. The court reversed the commission's finding and held that the pilot was not the employer. Therefore, he was not immune from the wrongful-death suit.
The court explained that an employee shares the employer's immunity when he acts as the "alter ego" of the employer in discharging the employer's duty to provide a safe workplace. This immunity protects supervisors, for example, when their duties include overseeing a safe workplace.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
January 7, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications