In our last post, we discussed the general idea of employees suing employers for intentional torts under a common law exception to the immunity an employer receives in the workers’ compensation system. In this post, we will discuss the Ohio Supreme Court opinions from earlier this year that seem to help narrow that exception.
The two relevant Supreme Court cases from earlier this year were Kaminski vs. Metal & Wire Products Co. and Stetter vs. R.J. Corman Derailment Services. Both of the cases were brought by injured workers attempting to challenge the 2005 amendment that changed the workers’ compensation law to make intentional tort suits against employers more difficult for employees to win.
In particular, the 2005 amendment limited the intentional tort exception to only those cases in which the employee can prove that the employer committed an act with the intent to injure the employee or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur. The phrase “substantially certain” was further defined to mean the employer acted with deliberate intent to cause injury to the employee.
In their rulings, the Supreme Court found against the employees and said the 2005 amendment was constitutional. In their opinion, the Court noted that it was the intent of the legislature to curtain the right of employees to sue for common law damages outside of workers’ compensation.
One Supreme Court Justice dissented in both cases saying the remaining exception is so narrow that it would be difficult to think of a situation in which an employer could be held liable for injuries without also being liable for criminally intending to injure the employee.
Moving forward, it may still be possible for injured workers to bring intentional torts suits, but it is likely to be very difficult. Under the right circumstances, an attorney may be able to help you build a case that fits within this recently narrowed exception. If you have questions or concerns about this legal development, an Ohio workers’ compensation attorney can discuss the law’s implications with you.