Hurt at Work and Want to Sue?
In most cases if you were hurt at work and want to sue, your claim is limited to remedies under the Workers Compensation Act. Notwithstanding, there are unique circumstances where your case warrants another type of action against your employer. Learn when your claim suggests a lawsuit outside of workers’ compensation court.
We would like to think that an employer does not set out to intentionally wrong or harm its workers. This is the one exception that allows an employee to seek a direct action outside the usual workers’ compensation route. The language of the law that describes this is as follows:
[i]f an injury or death is compensable under this article, a person shall not be liable to anyone at common law or otherwise on account of such injury or death for any act or omission occurring while such person was in the same employ as the person injured or killed, except for intentional wrong.
Proving that an employer intentionally intended to harm its employee can be challenging. However, that does not mean it is impossible.
The Laidlow rule
In order to evaluate a case to determine if the employer’s actions amounted to intentional harm, the courts may apply a rule that arose out of Laidlow v. Hariton Machinery Co., 170 N.J. 602 (2002). The circumstance of this case may help to understand a finding of intentional wrong.
Robert Laidlow was a machine operator, whose fingers and hand were partially amputated while in the course of his employment. There was a safety guard installed on the machine used by Mr. Laidlow. However, the safety guard was tied up by the employer to increase productivity. Unfortunately, this put Mr. Laidow at great risk and allowed his hand to be placed in a vulnerable position. The employer would only engage the safety guard when OSHA came to make inspections. Evidence was introduced that showed Mr. Laidow had other “close calls” as far as accidents. These might have been prevented if the safety guard was properly in place.
As a result of the Laidlow case, the court determined a standard for determining whether a case passes the exclusivity to workers’ compensation remedy:
- Was there evidence that the employer was relatively certain that an injury was imminent? (Mr. Laidlow’s prior close calls suggested there was.)
- If the above is true, is this merely indicative of industrial life and not an intentional wrong?