Coworker's intoxication, driving employer's truck sends suit back
Orris v. Lingley, No. 42343-0-II (Wash. Ct. App. 11/27/12).
Ruling: The Washington Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to a worker on his suit against a coworker's estate for his injuries in a car accident.
What it means: In Washington, a worker can sue a coworker if the coworker was not acting in the course of his employment at the time of the worker's injury.
Summary: A worker for a construction company rode from the job site back to the company office with a coworker in a truck owned by the company. The coworker lost control of the truck, and it crashed. The worker suffered severe injuries, and the coworker died. A death investigation toxicology report revealed the presence of THC and cannabinoids in the coworker's urine. The worker was in a coma when his father filled out a form for him to obtain workers' compensation benefits. He received medical and time-loss benefits. The worker sued the coworker's estate. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to the worker and sent the case back for further proceedings.
The court found there was a genuine issue of material fact whether the coworker was acting in the course of employment. The court agreed with the worker's argument that the drugs found in the coworker's body created a genuine issue of fact whether the coworker was so intoxicated that he abandoned the course of his employment.
The court also pointed out that an employee commuting to and from work is generally acting outside the course of employment. The record was silent as to whether the coworker was acting in the furtherance of the company's business by driving the truck. This created an issue of fact whether he was acting in the course of employment by driving the company's truck to and from the job site.
The court held that the exclusive remedy provision precluded the worker's claim that he was acting outside the course of employment. Although he was in a coma when his workers' compensation benefits were processed, he did not attempt to repay the benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
March 4, 2013
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