Boston v. Publix Super Markets, Inc., No. 4D11-1521 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 05/01/13).
The Florida District Court of Appeal held that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for a deceased driver's claim against a store.
What it means:
In Florida, a worker can sue his employer for his injury if the employer's conduct was virtually certain to result in injury or death.
A spotter driver parked a tractor in a loading dock and exited the tractor. A coworker was in another tractor and backed his trailer flush with the warehouse door. He felt a bump and set his brakes. The driver had been crushed between the rear of the trailer and the warehouse dock pad. He was pinned for two to three minutes and died shortly after the incident. An inspection after the accident revealed that the backup alarm on the coworker's trailer had not worked for months, and the coworker did not report it to the store's maintenance. The store was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The driver's estate sued the store and the coworker. The Florida District Court of Appeal held that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for the driver's claim against the store.
The court explained that an exception to the exclusive remedy provision exists if the employer's conduct was virtually certain to result in injury or death. The court found that the estate did not meet the "extraordinarily high standard" to overcome the immunity. There was no evidence that similar accidents had occurred.
The court also found that the lack of a backup alarm did not with virtual certainty result in injury. Although it could make an accident more likely, the standard in the statute demanded more. The backup alarm had not operated for months.
The court declined to dismiss the suit brought against the coworker, finding that a material issue of fact existed as to whether the coworker acted with gross negligence.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 29, 2013
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