Intentional Torts & Workers' Compensation Exclusivity - Ex Parte Lincare, Inc.


Ex parte Lincare, Inc., [Ms. 1141373, Aug. 19, 2016] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2016). This plurality opinion (Murdock, J., and Parker and Main, JJ., concur; Bolin and Bryan, JJ., concurring in the result) considers a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking reversal of the Jefferson Circuit Court's denial of an employer's motion to dismiss, which contended that its former employee's intentional torts claims were subsumed by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act. The petition also requests enforcement of a jury waiver set forth in an employment agreement.

Martin alleged that after she presented her supervisor Stewart with a resignation letter, Stewart physically confronted her about some paperwork, physically attacked her, fractured two fingers on her left hand, and damaged her right thumb and elbow. Ms. *3. Martin then sued her employer for workers' compensation benefits and sued Stewart and her employer for assault and battery and outrage. Martin demanded a jury trial on all issues triable by a jury. Id.

The Court holds that even though Martin had resigned by the time she allegedly was physically assaulted by Stewart, her injury nevertheless "arose out of her employment with Lincare" because it was precipitated by her resignation, it occurred while she was still on Lincare's premises, and it concerned possession of Lincare's documents. Thus, under authority of Cook v. AFC Enters., Inc., 826 So. 2d 174, 177 (Ala. Civ. App. 2002), and Thompson v. Anserall, Inc., 522 So. 2d 284, 286 (Ala. Civ. App. 1988), Martin's work-related injuries were compensable under the Act "even though she technically was not a Lincare employee at the time she was injured." Ms. *9-11.

Citing Ex parte Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., L.P., 78 So. 3d 959, 979 (Ala. 2011), the Court (Ms. *13-14) refuses to grant mandamus relief with respect to the trial court's refusal to dismiss Martin's tort-of-outrage claim based on alleged pleading deficiencies. The Court notes the conspicuous absence of "any authority stating that the denial of a motion to dismiss for failure to adequately plead a cognizable claim is reviewable by mandamus." Ms. *13.

Finally, the Court rejects the contention that a pre-employment jury trial waiver inures to the benefit of a supervisory co-employee sued for willful misconduct under § 25-5-11, Ala. Code 1975. Because the supervisor was not a party to the jury waiver and because Alabama public policy, the Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Alabama Constitution "all express a preference for trial by jury" (Ex parte Bancorp South Bank, 109 So. 3d 163, 166 (Ala. 2012)) "... there is a presumption against denying a jury trial based on a contractual waiver, and a waiver of a right to a jury trial must be strictly construed, giving deference to the constitutional guarantee of the right to a trial by jury." Ms. *15, quoting Ex parte Acosta, 184 So. 3d 349, 352 (Ala. 2015).

Related Documents: Ex parte Lincare

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