Case name: Coleman, et al. v. St. Thomas Hospital, No. M2009-02526-COA-R10-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. 08/04/10).
Ruling: The Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the exclusive remedy provision of the workers' compensation law barred a negligence suit filed by three workers injured by carbon monoxide exposure at work.
What it means: An injury that is purely coincidental, contemporaneous or collateral with the employment is not considered as arising out of employment. Workers exposed to leaking gas while working in a confined space near a gas-powered device are injured by a risk created as the result of the physical environment of their workplace.
Summary: Three workers worked for a credit union located in a hospital. The workers allegedly all began to experience symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, seizure, and loss of consciousness. It was discovered that a gas-powered water heater located in the basement of the hospital was producing carbon monoxide that was entering the credit union. The workers sued the hospital for negligence. The Tennessee Court of Appeals concluded that the employees' exclusive remedy was under the workers' compensation law.
The workers argued that there was no causal connection between their work conditions and their injuries. The court stated that an injury that is purely coincidental, contemporaneous or collateral with the employment is not considered as arising out of employment. The court found that although carbon monoxide exposure is not an inherent risk in all credit unions, it was a risk or hazard of these workers' employment due to the location of their office above the hospital's water heater. The court stated that this was not a situation where the work environment was a coincidental setting for an injury that could have occurred elsewhere and that the employment conditions subjected the workers to the hazard of carbon monoxide.
The court mentioned that the workers conceded that their injuries occurred in the course of their employment.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 4, 2010
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