Harris v. State of Montana, No. DA 12-0191 (Mont. 01/29/13).
Ruling: The Montana Supreme Court held that the exclusive remedy for an officer's injuries caused by a taser during training was in workers' compensation.
What it means: In Montana, an employee is permitted to sue his employer for his injury if he was intentionally injured by the employer or a coworker while performing the duties of his employment.
Summary: A correctional officer for a state prison was a member of the special response team whose members were trained to respond to the prison's most dangerous crises. The warden issued a policy requiring all individuals who wanted to be authorized to use a taser to complete training, which included a five-second taser exposure. The training was mandatory for members of the team. The officer did not object to the training and signed a written consent form listing the risks of taser exposure. The wardens underwent training first without incident. When it was the officer's turn, he claimed he sustained injuries to his thoracic and lumber spine due to the taser. He received workers' compensation benefits. The officer also sued the state. The Montana Supreme Court dismissed the claim, holding that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for his injury.
The officer argued that the state intentionally and deliberately caused him to be exposed to a taser, knowing that there was a possibility of serious injury, so his injury fell into the intentional injury exception of the exclusive remedy provision. The court found that the officer failed to present evidence that the state deliberately intended to harm him rather than educate and train him. The court explained that the possibility of injury did not establish actual knowledge of the injury's certainty.
The court noted that there was no evidence of prior reports of injury during taser training, and the state was candid about the known risks of the taser. The state knew that using a taser created a risk of harm to its workers who chose to undergo the exposure. However, there was nothing to indicate that it had certain knowledge that any of the workers would be harmed.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 13, 2013
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