Suit against coworker for leg injury barred by exclusive remedy
Case name: Martine v. Williams, No. 2010AP1426 (Wis. Ct. App. 04/21/11).
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that because a worker entered into a compromise agreement with his employer, the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation prevented the worker from suing his coworker.
What it means: In Wisconsin, a compromise agreement is considered an adjudication of a compensation claim, and a worker's suit against his coworker for his injuries is barred.
While walking to refill his water bottle at work, a worker flicked water at a coworker. The coworker approached the worker, grabbed him from behind, and placed him on the ground. As a result, the worker's leg was injured. The worker filed a claim for benefits. The employer disputed that the injury arose from his employment because it alleged the worker was engaged in horseplay. Ultimately, the worker and employer entered into a compromise agreement, in which the worker agreed to release the employer from liability in exchange for $3,500. The agreement provided that the employer disputed whether the injury arose out of employment. An administrative law judge adopted the agreement. The worker sued the coworker. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that the worker's suit was barred because workers' compensation held the worker's exclusive remedy.
The worker argued that the agreement left the issue of whether he and the employer were subject to the workers' compensation law unresolved. Construing the statute, the court explained that a compromise settlement is treated as an adjudication of the claim. Here, the ALJ adopted the terms of the compromise as the disposition of the claim. The worker's financial settlement indicated that his claim was not abandoned, but "adjusted."
The court explained that if the exclusive remedy provision applied to the employer, it also applied to the coworker.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
June 6, 2011
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