Workers' Comp Case 1McComas v. ACF Industries LLC
What Happened: A welder was working in an area where electricity had been shut off. He tried to restart the power at an electrical box, but an arc blast threw him to the ground and caused burns on 25 percent of his body. Although as a general rule, workers cannot file lawsuits against employers for injuries sustained on the job, but can only submit claims for Worker's Compensation, there is an exception to that rule when employers act with deliberate intent. The welder sued the company under that exception.
Company's Position: The company never inspected the electrical box. Actual knowledge is required for deliberate intent. Since the company didn't actually know the box was defective, there was no deliberate intent, and therefore the employee can't sue to recover for his damages. Worker's Compensation is his only recourse.
Results: The worker won. The West Virginia Supreme Court said that safety standards required companies to inspect electrical boxes at specific intervals. The company was required to follow all laws and rules regarding electrical safety, and the company's willful ignorance of workplace hazards was not a valid excuse. The worker was allowed to proceed with his lawsuit against the company.
Cite: McComas v. ACF Industries LLC, W. Va., No. 12-0548 (Oct. 17, 2013)
Workers' Comp Case 2
Johnson v. Sysco Food Services
What happened: A delivery truck driver said that while he was walking down the ramp of his truck, he started feeling pain in his knees. He filed for Workers' Compensation benefits.
Company's position: The truck driver is not entitled to Workers' Compensation because his knee injury was not caused by anything that happened to him on the job. The driver even admitted that he had problems with knee pain a month before the alleged incident on the ramp, and he had already tried using knee braces and over-the-counter medication. He didn't report his knee injury to the company until two months after the alleged day of injury. Also, when he went to get treatment for his knee, he told a nurse that he had injured his knee while running, not while at work.
Results: The Administrative Law Judge, the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals all agreed with the company, finding that the employee had not proved that his injury was sustained on the job and therefore was not entitled to Workers' Comp benefits.
Cite: Johnson v. Sysco Food Services, Case No. 2011-WC-01086-COA (MS Ct. App., Sep. 24, 2013)