Co-worker's falling asleep at wheel is negligent, covered by workers' comp
Formisano v. Gaston, No. S-10-0138 (Wyo. 01/20/11).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that a coworker's admitted negligence of falling asleep while driving did not rise to the level of misconduct to bring the worker's injuries outside of workers' compensation.
What it means: In Wyoming, a coworker falling asleep while driving and negligently causing an accident does not rise to the level of misconduct envisioned by the exception to immunity of workers' compensation.
Summary: A worker and his coworker were sent to repair a truck bed early in the morning. The two men finished the repair work and headed back to the town in which they both lived, which was two hours away, at about midnight. The worker said they were both "pretty tired." While they were traveling, the coworker, who was driving, fell asleep and the vehicle drifted off the road, rolling one-and-a-half times. The worker suffered several herniated disks in the accident. Both men were "on the clock" at the time of the accident. The worker sued the coworker, asserting that he acted intentionally to injure him, placing his injury outside of workers' compensation. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that the coworker's admitted negligence did not rise to the level of misconduct envisioned by the exception to immunity of workers' compensation.
The court explained that a coworker is not liable if he is merely negligent. The worker argued that the coworker treated him rudely during the day and was untruthful in speaking to him and supervisors. The worker also tried to show that the coworker was, in effect, his supervisor. The court said that there was no causal relationship between the coworker's attitude toward the worker during the day and the accident in the middle of the night.
The worker also argued that the coworker intentionally drove while sleep deprived. The court said that while there was some possibility of the coworker falling asleep and causing an accident, it could not conclude that the coworker intentionally acted to cause physical harm to the worker.
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February 24, 2011
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