Workers' Compensation

Chris T. Archer, Esquire

A stay in the civil suit filed by an employee against his employer is the proper remedy, rather than the granting of summary judgment when original jurisdiction over an employee’s accident at work lies with the Missouri Division of Worker’s Compensation. Cooper v Chrysler Group, LLC, No. 96549 (Mo. App. E.D., December 13, 2011), Crane, J

Claimant sustained admitted compensable work related accident. His employer contested whether surgery later performed was related to the accident. The claimant filed a civil suit against his employer alleging that the denial of liability for the surgery was based upon the more narrow definition of “injury” that requires the accident to have been “the prevailing factor.”  Summary judgment was granted by the trial court, which stated worker’s compensation has original jurisdiction over the matter.

The court agreed that the Division of Workers’ Compensation has original jurisdiction over factual disputes rather than legal disputes, but disagreed that the court properly granted summary judgment. “The trial court plainly erred in entering summary judgment as a remedy to enforce the worker’s compensation exclusivity defense when that defense was based on a fact question to be decided by the commission.”

A traveling deviation from work will be analyzed with consideration of the mutual benefit and dual purpose common law doctrines, defining when an accident arises out of and in course of an employee’s employment. Wilson v. Wilson, No. 73742 (Mo. App. W.D., December 20, 2011), Welsh, J.

Claimant pursued workers’ compensation benefits against his own company and its carrier for a single vehicle car accident that occurred while he was enroute to a business associate’s property to hunt for deer. Evidence and testimony established that the claimant had no business purpose for being where he went off the road into a ditch that morning. The claimant had arranged to meet with a prospective client later that day after hunting. The claimant also testified he was going to a gas station when the accident occurred and that served a dual purpose for his hunting trip and business meeting.

The commission affirmed the ALJ who denied the case. The court agreed and affirmed the denial. Interestingly, there is no discussion as to whether the dual purpose and mutual benefit doctrines are still viable after the legislative changes were made to the Act in 2005 although the court analyzed the application of these common law doctrines in affirming the denial of compensation.

Roth (deceased),, vs. J.J. Brouk & Company Corp., et al., No. 96708, summarized under Civil Practice & Procedure, supra.