Claims against Co-employees

author by Gregory S. Ritchey on Nov. 05, 2013

Accident & Injury Personal Injury Lawsuit & Dispute  Litigation Business  Corporate 

Summary: An injured employee may only pursue claims against a co-employee in cases involving willful conduct.

Sometimes in the course of a Workers Compensation claims, co-employees are also sued.  Chapter 5 of Title 25 of the Alabama Code, 1975, known as the Workers Compensation Act (the “Act”), provides as follows:

Except as provided in this chapter, no employee of any employer subject to this chapter, nor the personal representative, surviving spouse, or next of kin of the employee shall have a right to any other method, form, or amount of compensation or damages for an injury or death occasioned by an accident or occupational disease proximately resulting from and while engaged in the actual performance of the duties of his or her employment and from a cause originating in such employment or determination thereof. Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-52.

The rights and remedies granted in this chapter to an employee shall exclude all other rights and remedies of the employee, his or her personal representative, parent, dependent, or next of kin, at common law, by statute, or otherwise on account of injury, loss of services, or death. Except as provided in this chapter, no employer shall be held civilly liable for personal injury to or death of the employer’s employee, for purposes of this chapter, whose injury or death is due to an accident or to an occupational disease while engaged in the service or business of the employer, the cause of which accident or occupational disease originates in the employment. In addition, immunity from civil liability for all causes of action except those based upon willful conduct shall also extend to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier of the employer; to a person, firm, association, trust, fund, or corporation responsible for servicing and payment of workers’ compensation claims for the employer; to an officer, director, agent, or employee of the carrier, person, firm, association, trust, fund, or corporation; to a labor union, an official, or representative thereof; to a governmental agency providing occupational safety and health services, or an employee of the agency; and to an officer, director, agent, or employee of the same employer, or his or her personal representative. Nothing in this section shall be construed to relieve a person from criminal prosecution for failure or neglect to perform a duty imposed by law. Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-53.

The origin of the complete immunity provided to employers and the limited immunity provided to co-employees by the Act is made clear in Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-14:

The legislature finds that actions filed on behalf of injured employees against officers, directors, agents, servants or employees of the same employer seeking to recover damages in excess of amounts received or receivable from the employer under the workers’ compensation statutes of this state and predicated upon claimed negligent or wanton conduct resulting in injuries arising out of and in the course of employment are contrary to the intent of the legislature in adopting a comprehensive workers’ compensation scheme and are producing a debilitating and adverse effect upon efforts to retain existing, and to attract new industry to this state. Specifically, the existence of such causes of action places this state at a serious disadvantage in comparison to the existing laws of other states with whom this state competes in seeking to attract and retain industrial operations which would provide better job opportunities and increased employment for people in this state. The existence of such causes of action, and the consequent litigation resulting therefrom, results in substantial costs and expenses to employers which, as a practical matter, must either procure additional liability insurance coverage for supervisory and management employees or fund the costs of defense, judgment or settlement from their own resources in order to retain competent and reliable personnel. The existence of such causes of action has a disruptive effect upon the relationship among employees and supervisory and management personnel. There is a total absence of any reliable evidence that the availability of such causes of action has resulted in any reduction of the number or severity of on-the-job accidents or of any substantial improvement on providing safe working conditions and work practices. The intent of the legislature is to provide complete immunity to employers and limited immunity to officers, directors, agents, servants or employees of the same employer and to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier and compensation service companies of the employer or any officer, director, agent, servant or employee of such carrier or company and to labor unions and to any official or representative thereof, from civil liability for all causes of action except those based on willful conduct and such immunity is an essential aspect of the workers’ compensation scheme. See also Ala. Code 1975, § 25-5-11 (injured party may proceed against employer and third party at the same time, but if the third party is a co-employee, the injury complained of must be the result of willful conduct).

The Act is the sole remedy for an employee injured while engaged in the duties of the employee’s job, except under certain circumstances.

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