Case name: Lunsford v. Cemex, Inc., No. 1:10CV143 (M.D.N.C. 04/23/10).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina granted a worker's request to return his wrongful termination lawsuit to state court. Because the worker's claim was "integrally related" to workers' compensation law, federal law barred federal courts from hearing the case.
What it means: Federal statutes prohibit federal courts from hearing lawsuits where the basis for the action arises under workers' compensation law. Where a worker sues his employer, claiming he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim, that lawsuit is so intertwined with workers' compensation law that a state court must hear it.
Summary: The claimant filed a claim for benefits seven months after suffering an alleged workplace injury. The employer terminated the worker 16 days after he filed the claim. The worker sued, alleging that the employer wrongfully terminated him in retaliation for filing the claim. The employer removed the case from state to federal court based on the parties' diversity of citizenship. The worker sought to return the case to state court, arguing that the employer had not met its burden of showing that the requisite amount in controversy -- more than $75,000 -- had been met as required by federal law. The District Court granted the worker's request but found that there was an independent reason why removal was improper.
Federal law prohibits federal courts from hearing lawsuits "arising under" a state's workers' compensation laws. The court looked to a similar case in which a parcel delivery company refused to permit a worker to return to work after he filed a claim for benefits. In that case, the court ruled that retaliation claims based on a workers' compensation filing are "so ?integrally related'" to the state's workers' compensation laws that only a state court should hear them.
The court determined that the employee's retaliation claim in the instant case was so fundamentally related to state workers' compensation law that the state courts should hear it. On that basis alone, it was proper to return it to state court.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 8, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications