“Intentional Tort Exception” to Exclusive Remedy Provision of Workers Compensation Act Did Not Apply to Employee’s Claim of Injury by Allegedly Defective Machinery

Yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order summarily reversing the published decision of the Court of Appeals in Thomai.v.MIBA Hydramechanica Corp., et al, 303 Mich. App. 196 (2013), a case in which the Court of Appeals allowed a circuit court suit to proceed against a manufacturer on the basis that the employee had sufficient basis to proceed under the intentional tort exception to the exclusive remedy provisions of the Michigan Workers’ Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq.

The plaintiff was injured while operating a machine at work.  The machine leaked oil onto the floor and workers were constantly required to wipe up the oil with rags to keep the floor and work area dry.  While cleaning up the oil, the plaintiff’s arm became trapped in the machine.  He filed suit in circuit court, which dismissed the action, citing MCL 418.131(1) (the “intentional tort” exception to the exclusive remedy provisions of the WDCA).  The exclusive remedy in Michigan for workplace injuries is under the provisions of the WDCA.

In its published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding the statute, as well as prior Supreme Court precedent, allows this exception to apply to “deliberate acts” by the employer that are shown to have occurred over a period of time. Here, the allegation is that the machine that injured the plaintiff was in disrepair and needed constant maintenance.  Since the employer knew about this, but did nothing about it, the act of the employer being deliberate could constitute the “intentional” act needed to bring the case out of the exclusive remedy provision of the WDCA.

In its order, thomai.v.MIBA.order.reverse.coa, the Supreme Court notes the trial court gave the plaintiff sufficient time to prove the necessary elements of the intentional tort exception, and, after properly applying those elements to the facts that were in the record, properly dismissed the claim.  The Court therefore reverses the Court of Appeals’ decision noting:  “There is simply no evidence in the record to establish that the defendants wilfully disregarded knowledge that an injury was certain to occur to the plaintiff from his operation of the grooving machine.”

It is also worth noting, although the trial court did not dismiss on these grounds, that the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency has primary and exclusive jurisdiction over claims that should be filed under the WDCA, at least at the commencement of an action. On the basis of Michigan Constitutional authority of administrative agencies, as well as on the statutory jurisdiction of circuit courts, the question of compensation for injuries sustained by employees while at work resides exclusively within the purview of the workers’ compensation agency and the automatic benefits and remedies available under the WDCA.  If, during the course of discovery, it is determined that the “intentional tort” exception may apply, then, and only then, should a circuit court exercise jurisdiction over the claim.

For more than a century, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.

We are experienced at navigating through all appellate courts to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.

During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • Arbuckle v. GM, Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 310611, oral argument in Court of Appeals presented May 2014 by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (201_), amicus curiae brief filed for Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association on June 16, 2014, after remand by Carson J. Tucker
  • Estate of Truett v. Wayne County, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, dated May 6, 2014 (Docket No. 313638), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker
  • Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 495 Mich. 859 (2013), application filed by Carson J. Tucker, Supreme Court remand to Court of Appeals on leave granted, oral argument to be held in July 2014
  • Ghanam v. John Does, 303 Mich. App. 522 (2013), application to appeal filed in Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., 495 Mich. 976 (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)

About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Insurance and Indemnity, Labor and Employment Law, May It Please the Court, Michigan Court of Appeals Published Opinions, Michigan Supreme Court Orders, Recent Judicial Dispositions, Workers' Compensation Cases and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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