Case name: Merten v. Portland General Electric Co., No. A137350 (Or. Ct. App. 03/24/10).
The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of an employee's fraud suit against his employer, finding that the suit was not barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the state's workers' compensation law.
What it means: An employee's allegations that his employer made fraudulent misrepresentations concerning his workers' compensation claim do not arise out of and in the course of his employment, as the relief he seeks cannot be compensated by the Workers' Compensation Act. As a result, his suit for damages against the employer is not barred by the act's exclusive remedy provision.
Summary: An electric company lineman injured his back and shoulder when he fell from a power pole. The employer initially denied the claim but later accepted the shoulder injury as compensable. Under Oregon law, the employee had limited time to request a hearing contesting the denial of his claim. Instead of requesting a hearing, he continued to communicate with the employer concerning his back injury. The employer repeatedly told him that if he submitted medical records documenting his injuries from the fall, it would open a claim. By the time he produced medical records, the time had passed for requesting a hearing, and the employer refused to open the claim. He sued for fraud. The Court of Appeals determined that his suit could proceed despite the employer's allegations that the suit was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the state's workers' compensation law.
The employer contended that the Workers' Compensation Board was the only forum that could address the employee's fraud allegations because the fraud claim was "inseparable" from the workers' compensation claim. The Court of Appeals disagreed, explaining that if a claim does not arise out of and in the course of employment, it is not subject to the exclusivity rule. It pointed out that the employee's damages were caused by the employer's "intentional nonwork-related conduct."
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May 13, 2010
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