Case name: Karty v. DePhilippis, No. D059554 (Cal. Ct. App. 06/12/13, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal ruled that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for a waiter's injury.
What it means: In California, a worker is limited to a workers' compensation remedy when a coworker commits an intentional assault during the scope of his employment.
A pizza cook at a restaurant heated a pan before placing a pizza on the pan for a waiter to bring to a customer. Because the pizza pans were generally kept cool, the waiter picked up the pan with his bare hand. When he did so, he screamed and dropped the pan. He suffered serious and permanent burn injuries. The waiter received workers' compensation benefits and sued his employer. The California Court of Appeal dismissed the suit, finding that workers' compensation held his exclusive remedy.
The waiter acknowledged that before his burn injury there was substantial horseplay among the restaurant employees. The employees routinely engaged in practical jokes. He claimed that after he burned his hand he saw the lead cook and other employees laughing.
The court rejected the waiter's argument that exceptions to the exclusivity provision applied. He did not show that the employer committed a physical assault or had any involvement or knowledge of the incident or that the lead cook or pizza cook acted on the employer's behalf.
The court explained that even if the exception extended to an assault by a "managing representative" the waiter did not show that the lead cook was a managing representative. The lead cook did not exercise general discretionary power of direction and control over the restaurant business or even the kitchen. At most, she made decisions regarding the kitchen work in the evenings.
The waiter also did not show that the employer or any managers were aware that the lead cook had any responsibility for his burn injuries or that she was involved in an assault toward him. A restaurant manager questioned employees about the incident but only learned that the pizza cook was responsible for placing the hot pan.
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August 30, 2013
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