Case name: Peters v. Texas Instruments Inc., No. 10C-06-043 JRJ (Del. Super. Ct. 09/30/11).
Applying Texas law, the Delaware Superior Court dismissed a worker's suit alleging that his exposure to toxic substances at work injured his reproductive system, causing birth defects to his son.
What it means: In Texas, the exclusivity provision bars a suit claiming that injuries to a worker's child were caused by the worker's exposure to toxic substances in the workplace.
A worker sued his employer, alleging that his son was born with birth defects due to his workplace exposure to hazardous and toxic substances that injured his reproductive system. The son was born with retinoblastoma and had to have his eye removed. The worker claimed that no ventilation system was used to protect workers from inhalation or skin exposure to chemicals and that the protective gear he wore provided no protection. He also claimed that the employer failed to warn workers of the health threats associated with exposure to the chemicals.
The parties agreed that Texas law applied to the suit. The Delaware Superior Court held that the exclusive remedy of workers' compensation barred the suit.
The worker argued that his son was not an employee of the employer, so his claims could not be barred by the exclusive remedy of workers' compensation. The court agreed with the employer's assertions that the worker's alleged workplace exposure was a compensable injury and that his failure to file a workers' compensation claim did not prevent the exclusivity bar from applying to the suit.
The court said the son was not directly exposed to harm in the worker's workplace. The court explained that the employer's alleged negligence did not cause harm to the son that was separate and apart from the harm caused by the worker. The viability of the son's claim depended on the validity of the worker's claim. Therefore, the suit was derivative of the worker's claim and the exclusivity provision applied.
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November 28, 2011
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