Suit against company not barred by comp award from second employer
Case name: Lewis v. Gilmore, No. SC91834 (Mo. 06/12/12).
Ruling: The Missouri Supreme Court held that a widow's suit against a worker's employer was not barred.
What it means: In Missouri, a worker or his dependents may sue an employer who fails to secure workers' compensation insurance.
Summary: A worker died when the tractor-trailer in which he was a passenger overturned. The driver of the truck was in the course of his employment for a trucking company. The trucking company was operating pursuant to a contract with a transportation company. The trucking company did not carry workers' compensation insurance, but the transportation company did. The worker's widow sought workers' compensation from both companies. She also sued the driver and trucking company. The transportation company was ordered to pay death benefits. The Missouri Supreme Court held that the widow's suit against the trucking company was not barred by the workers' compensation award from the transportation company.
The court explained that the widow elected to sue the trucking company to recover damages for the worker's death. It was undisputed that the two companies were separate entities and each had the responsibility to carry workers' compensation insurance. The court said the fact that the transportation company complied with the requirement and was deemed to be the statutory employer did not excuse the trucking company from its obligation to carry workers' compensation insurance.
The widow could elect either a workers' compensation claim or a civil lawsuit but could not recover on both claims against the same uninsured employer. The court said that barring recovery from the trucking company would allow it to avoid the requirement that it carry workers' compensation insurance and evade financial responsibility for the worker's injury. There was no issue of an impermissible double recovery because the widow's recovery in the lawsuit would be subject to the transportation company's subrogation rights.
A dissenting judge opined that the majority's opinion allowed two remedies for a single injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 20, 2012
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