Worker's death covered by comp despite employer's OSHA violation
Case name: Teague v. Crossroads Cooperative Assoc., No. S-12-702 (Neb. 05/31/13).
The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed a worker's estate's suit against the employer.
What it means:
In Nebraska, an employer's violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations does not bring a worker's death outside of workers' compensation.
A worker's supervisor asked him to enter a grain bin and shovel grain into the center of the bin's base to facilitate removal of grain from the bin. The worker died of asphyxiation after being engulfed in grain. The employer violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations by sending the worker into the bin without a lifeline or other equipment that could prevent engulfment past his waist. Also, the supervisor kept the auger running in the bin and the supervisor momentarily stepped away from his observation of the worker in the bin. The worker's estate sued the employer. The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed the suit, finding that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for the estate.
The estate asserted that because of the employer's intentional conduct in willfully violating OSHA regulations, the worker's death was not an "accident" covered by workers' compensation. The court explained that compensation is awarded regardless of the fault of the employer. The court said it was the "almost unanimous rule" that any intentional conduct exception to the workers' compensation exclusivity rule does not include the misconduct of the employer, short of a conscious and deliberate intent directed to the purpose of inflicting an injury. Absent an amendment to the workers' compensation law by the legislature, the court declined to create a "substantially certain" exception to the exclusive remedy provision.
The court also rejected the estate's arguments that the workers' compensation law was unconstitutional. The court explained that it was not arbitrary for the legislature to determine coverage based on whose willful negligence caused the injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 12, 2013
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