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Employee Can Successfully Bring Intentional Tort Claim Against Employer City

by Andrew Tobergte on Apr. 27, 2016

Employment Accident & Injury  Personal Injury 

Summary: The typical avenue for employees seeking compensation is through a worker's comp claim. An exception to this is an intentional tort claim. This case examines a man suing a city for an assault he suffered while working for the city.

In Vacha v. N. Ridgeville, the Supreme Court supported a Ninth District Court of Appeals decision finding that because an intentional tort claim may arise out of an employment relationship between a political subdivision and one of its employees, such employers are not automatically entitled to immunity on such claims. 
Generally speaking in Ohio, when employees are injured in the workplace, their sole remedy is found via workers' compensation. That is, employees are not permitted to sue their employers for damages stemming from negligence or even recklessness that causes physical injury. 
One exception to that general rule is through an intentional tort claim. Pursuant to R.C. 2745.01(B), an injured employee may pursue damages against his/her employer by demonstrating a tortious act with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur. As used in that statute, “ ‘substantially certain’ means that an employer acts with deliberate intent to cause an employee to suffer an injury, a disease, a condition, or death.”
In Vacha, the employee-claimant was assaulted by a fellow employee while working for the city of North Ridgeville. Among other claims, Vacha brought an intentional tort action. And like in most actions against political subdivisions, the city maintained it was immune from any liability. 
The Ohio Political Subdivision Tort Liability Act, R.C. Chapter 2744 provides general immunity to cities for damages in civil actions when in connection with a governmental or proprietary function. There are exceptions to the general rule. Further, the immunity act is inapplicable to actions by an employee relative to matters arising out of the employment relationship. See R.C. 2744.09(B). 
The Vacha Court clarified that a political subdivision employee could be successful in an intentional tort action so long as he/she is able to prove that a causal connection or causal relationship exists between the claims raised by such employee and the employment relationship. Such determinations are fact intensive and determined on a case-by-case basis.

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