Coworker not liable for shooting worker during course of employment
Case name: Smith, et al. v. Ellis, No. S12A1174 (Ga. 09/10/12).
Ruling: The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a grant of summary judgment to a coworker in a worker's suit.
What it means: In Georgia, a coworker is not protected from a suit brought by an injured worker unless the coworker was acting in the course of employment when he injured a worker.
Summary: A worker and coworker worked for a company that built and sold new houses. The coworker called the worker to arrange a meeting so that he could borrow a tool for his personal use. The coworker also wanted to shoot guns. The coworker met the worker at a house the worker was finishing. The coworker had no work to do and left part of the property to avoid being seen by a supervisor. Later, the worker met the coworker in an undeveloped field. The coworker began firing his new rifle while the worker organized his work tools. The coworker accidentally shot the worker in the leg when he tried to clear a jam in the rifle. The worker filed a workers' compensation claim against the company. The company agreed to pay him $6,000 in exchange for his stipulation that he had not sustained a compensable injury. Later, the worker sued the coworker for negligence. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed a grant of summary judgment to the coworker.
The coworker asserted that the suit was barred by the exclusive remedy provision. The court explained that a worker could not file a workers' compensation claim alleging that he suffered a compensable injury, reach a settlement with the employer, and then sue "an employee of the same employer" alleging that the injury was not compensable.
In remanding the case, the court explained that summary judgment for the coworker would still be proper if the evidence showed that he was acting in the course of his employment when he injured the worker.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 26, 2012
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