Dismissal of Negligence Lawsuit of Worker Injured on Job against his Supervisors

Many injured workers hurt on the job complain that something their employer themself or employer’s supervisors or managers negligently caused the workers’ injury suffered on the job in the first place. For a long time the Missouri Workers Compensation Law protected employers and their managers and supervisors from getting sued either as a company or personally for negligently causing the accident that resulted in the injuries. Then came along the 2005 amendments to Missouri’s workers’ compensation law, meant to swing the pendulum to employers’ and insurance companies’ advantage.

Well, some smart lawyers used the changes in the law against employers and insurers. The 2005 amendments required strict literal interpretation of Missouri Workers Compensation Law. In the 2010 case of Robinson v. Hooker a worker was hurt on the job, when a co-worker lost his grip on a high pressure hose, which then hit a worker causing blindness in one of her eyes. The injured employee sued not just for Missouri workmens compensation benefits but sued the coworker who lost control of the hose. Since 1983 Missouri’s Workmens Compensation Law had always been interpreted to provide protection against negligence lawsuits not just for employers— the injured workers was limited to suing for workmans compensation benefits— but allowed workers injured on the job to sue coworkers for negligently causing a work accident. However, before they could do this they had to prove “something more” than regular negligence on the supervisors’ or managers’ acts that negligently caused the accident. Ordinary negligence was not enough.

In Robinson the lawyers for the lady who lost an eye argued that their negligence lawsuit against the coworker who negligently caused her injury that a strict literal reading of the Missouri Workers Compensation Law, required ever since the 2005 changes to the law, only would make protection against negligence lawsuits apply to protect employers from getting sued for negligence, but not managers, supervisors or other coworkers. Employers and insurance companies were furious about this decision. Within two years of the Robinson decision they and their lobbyists helped push a new amendment to the Missouri Workers Compensation Law, effectively overturning Robinson v. Hooker and restoring the immunity from negligence lawsuits of individual supervisors and managers they had enjoyed prior to Robinson. This essentially restored the “something more than ordinary negligence” requirement for any lawsuits against individual company officials, supervisors and managers for their negligent acts that resulted in injuries to the worker injured on the job.

The main case I will be discussing here is Peters v. Wady Industries & Terrio. Curt Peters, the employee who was injured on the job while working at Wady Industries, was actually employed by Wady’s subcontractor Tramar. A stack of dowel baskets (dowels are heavy steel-reinforced concrete paver stones) fell over onto Mr. Peters while he was unloading them and injured him badly. Peters blamed it on his supervisor. Since Peters was prevented by Missouri’s workers compensation from suing his employer Tramar for negligence in causing his injuries, his lawyer filed a negligence lawsuit against general contractor Wady Industrial where Tramar had sent him to work and against Terrio, his supervisor.

The negligence claim he filed against his supervisor Terrio had a motion to dismiss filed against it by the company’s lawyers. The circuit judge granted supervisor Terrio a dismissal of Peters’ claim against him based on the protection under Missouri Workers Compensation Law of supervisors from having to face such lawsuits, finding that there was nothing claimed by Peters that was “something more than ordinary negligence.” Peters appealed the dismissal to the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with the circuit judge who dismissed the negligence lawsuit that the lower court judge was correct to dismiss the lawsuit because a 2012 amendment to Missouri Workers Compensation Law restored the immunity of managers and supervisors from lawsuits against them for simple negligence that caused a work injury. The negligence once again had to be “extra” negligence. One judge on the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals, Glenn Norton, dissented from the opinion of the majority of other appellate judges. He would have allowed the negligence lawsuit of the injured worker proceed under Missouri law. Unfortunately, a majority of the Court of Appeals judges disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit.

The main point to remember from this case is that whenever you as a worker suffer an accident and get injured on the job, the only road open to you will be the filing of a workers’ compensation claim. You essentially will be barred from fling a negligence lawsuit against the company or any official of the company, even if it is their negligence in creating a dangerous or unsafe work environment which you can prove caused you to suffer your work injury in the first place. Unless you can prove that company supervisors’ or managers’ more than just ordinary negligence caused your injuries suffered on the job, any such lawsuit you would file against them would soon be thrown out by a judge at the request of the companies defense attorneys soon after you filed it, just as Peters’ suit was dismissed by the St. Charles County circuit judge.

In other words, when you get injured at work on the job, workers compensation is the only form of benefit you will likely be able to fight for. So make sure to call a good lawyer to file and fight your workman’s compensation claim.

St. Louis Workers Compensation Center can demand your rights to workers compensation benefits for you. Then they can proceed to enforce them. Please call us for advice and assistance on any work-related injury suffered on the job St. Charles County, in St. Louis County, Lincoln County, Warren County, Jefferson County, Franklin County, or any counties in eastern Missouri within 100 miles of the greater St. Louis area. All our consultations are absolutely free. Tom Hyatt will talk to you about your case right away. Our attorney’s fee would be a modest percentage of the Missouri workmen’s comp disability benefits we got for you.

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