Waterboarding incident may fall under exception to exclusive remedy
Case name: Hudgens v. Prosper, Inc., No. 20090391 (Utah 11/23/10).
Ruling: The Utah Supreme Court sent a case involving a waterboarding incident back to the trial court to determine whether the incident fell under the intentional injury exception of the exclusivity provision.
What it means: In Utah, a motivational exercise at work that causes a worker to feel extreme stress may fall under the intentional injury exception to the workers' compensation exclusivity provision.
Summary: To prove his loyalty and determination, a worker volunteered to be a part of a motivational exercise. The worker said his supervisor led his team to the top of a hill. The supervisor allegedly asked the worker to lay down facing up and ordered other team members to hold him down by his arms and legs. According to the worker, the supervisor then slowly poured water from a gallon jug over his nose and mouth so that he could not breathe. The worker said the employer took no action regarding the waterboarding incident before the worker quit working. The incident caused the worker to suffer sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and to feel sick to his stomach at work. The worker sued the employer over the incident. The trial court dismissed the worker's emotional distress and assault claims as barred by the workers' compensation exclusive remedy rule. The trial court said the incident did not fall into the intentional acts exception to the rule because the supervisor intended to motivate the worker, not injure him.
The Utah Supreme Court found that the trial court mishandled the case. The court noted that recent case decisions regarding the intentional injury exception to the exclusive remedy provision were of critical importance to the worker's claims. The Supreme Court allowed the worker to amend his complaint and sent the case back to determine whether the incident fell under the intentional injury exception to the exclusivity provision of the workers' compensation law.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 13, 2011
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