Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court
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Claimant-appellant Stephen Arrants appealed a superior court order that affirmed an Industrial Accident Board's order granting employer-appellee Home Depot's petition to terminate appellant's total disability benefits. Appellant raised two claims on appeal: (1) the Board's decision was in error because all experts agreed that his condition had not improved since the 2007 Board finding of total disability; and (2) the Board's decision was not supported by competent evidence in the record. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that both arguments were without merit, and affirmed the superior court. View "Arrants v. Home Depot" on Justia Law

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Claimants Cecil Palomino, Salvador Avila-Hernandez and Julio Munoz were each injured in different work-related accidents. It was not disputed that their injuries were compensable under the Worker's Compensation Act and that payments of some worker's compensation have been made. After their doctors recommended certain treatments, their employers requested determinations of whether the treatment plans fell outside of the Health Care Practice ("HCAP") Guidelines through a utilization review ("UR"). The UR panel determined that portions of their treatments were not approved for coverage. Claimants petitioned the Industrial Accident Board for review of the UR determination after the 45 day time window prescribed by Department of Labor Regulation 5.5.1. The Board dismissed the petitions as untimely. Claimants appealed to the Superior Court, which determined that the 45 day limit of Regulation 5.5.1 was invalid because it conflicted with 19 Del. C. sec 2361. The employers appealed from the Superior Court's judgment. Finding no merit to the appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Christiana Care Health Services v. Palomino" on Justia Law

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Appellant Mary E. Spellman ("Spellman") petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (the "Board") for a workers' compensation award against her employer, Appellee Christiana Care Health Services ("Christiana"). The Board denied the petition and the Superior Court affirmed. Appellant worked as a home health aide, where she used her personal vehicle to attend to Christiana's clients at their homes. While Appellant was reimbursed for mileage between client appointments, she was not reimbursed for travel to the first appointment, from the last appointment, or "off the clock" when she attended to personal business. In the middle of her work day, Appellant was off the clock when her car hit a patch of ice causing Appellant to crash her car. She sustained injuries to her head and hip. In her petition, Appellant argued that her status as a traveling employee exempted her from the "going and coming" rule that precludes workers' compensation for injuries suffered while going or coming from work. Alternatively, Appellant argued her injuries were compensable because she was engaged in a "mixed purpose" trip at the time of her accident. Having "no difficulty" sustaining the judgment of the Superior Court, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Spellman v. Christiana Care Health Services" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Chancery Court was required to dismiss a Delaware derivative complaint after a California federal court entered final judgment dismissing the same complaint brought by different stockholders. The Chancery Court determined it was not required to give preclusive effect to the California judgment. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the Chancery Court erred in its determination: (1) the lower court held as a matter of Delaware law that the stockholder plaintiffs in the two jurisdictions were not in privity with one another; (2) that the California stockholders were not adequate representatives of the defendant corporation; (3) California law controlled the issue, and derivative stockholders were in privity with one another because they acted on behalf of the corporation; and (4) the Chancery Court adopted a presumption of inadequacy without the record to support it. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Pyott v. Louisiana Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Two employees of Connections CSP, Inc. were killed in an automobile collision during the course and scope of their employment. Connections owned the vehicle and had purchased underinsured motorist insurance (UIM) for the vehicle and also worker's compensation insurance which covered the employees. The UIM insurer paid its policy limit of $1,000,000. The worker's compensation insurer also paid benefits to the representatives of the decedents. The worker's compensation insurer then sought to enforce a lien upon the UIM payment equal to the worker's compensation benefits it paid. But the UIM policy specifically excluded the direct or indirect benefit of any insurer or self-insurer under a worker's compensation claim. Notwithstanding this exclusion, the Superior Court enforced the lien based upon its interpretation of 19 Del. C. 2363(e), which allows reimbursement of a worker's compensation carrier "from the third party liability insurer." The UIM insurer appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that General Assembly eliminated the ability of a worker's compensation insurer to assert a lien against the UIM payments made pursuant to the employer's UIM policy. Because the Superior Court erred as a matter of law in enforcing a lien, the Supreme Court reversed its decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Simendinger v. National Union Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether a jury verdict in favor of a racing official should have been reinstated. The racing official, who had been suspended by the Delaware Harness Racing Commission, claimed that the Commission reneged on its promise to reinstate him. The jury agreed, but the trial court later determined that the racing official's claim failed as a matter of law. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the racing official's promissory estoppel claim which was accepted by the jury, subjected the Commission to liability. The trial court also held that the jury verdict was excessive and against the great weight of the evidence, thereby justifying a new trial. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court's entry of judgment in favor of the Commission was reversed, but disagreed that the verdict was excessive and reinstated the jury's verdict. View "Harmon v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Pro se appellant Holly Noel-Liszkiewicz appealed a superior court's decision to affirm the Industrial Accident Board's denial of her claim for worker's compensation benefits. Appellant was a customer service representative for Employer La-Z-Boy before being laid off. Almost two years after the lay off, Appellant petitioned the board seeking compensation for occupational asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, and respiratory failure allegedly caused by exposure to chemicals at La-Z-Boy’s facility. La-Z-Boy denied that Applicant suffered any illness or injury that was causally related to her work. Finding Appellant's arguments to be without merit, the Supreme Court affirmed both the Board and the superior court. View "Noel-Liszkiewicz v. La-Z-Boy" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff-appellants, Bruce Bermel and Pamela Jurga, as husband and wife, appealed the final judgment of the Superior Court granting the motion for summary judgment of the defendant-appellee, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The appellants contended that the Superior Court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of Liberty. Bermel was injured in an automobile accident when his personal motorcycle was struck head-on by another driver. Bermel, then an employee of the Siemens Corporation, contended that the business policy issued to Siemens by Liberty on a company car that was assigned for his business and personal use, provided him with $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage even when he was operating a non-work vehicle in circumstances unrelated to his employment. Bermel brought this action for underinsured benefits (“UIM”) against Liberty arguing: (1) that the Liberty Policy covering the company car he used was personal to him, even though Siemens was the named insured; (2) that he was entitled to personally access the Liberty Policy because Siemens automatically deducted a nominal fee from his paycheck for his personal use of the vehicle assigned to him that was insured by the Liberty Policy; and (3) that the Liberty Policy was ambiguously drafted and should have been construed in his favor. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Superior Court correctly found Siemens, and not Bermel, to be the named insured on the Liberty Policy, that the nominal fee charged to Bermel by Siemens for the use of the car did not make Bermel a named insured under the Liberty Policy, and that the Liberty Policy was unambiguous. Therefore, the judgments of the Superior Court were affirmed. View "Bermel v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Appellant Reuben Cordero appealed a Superior Court order that affirmed an order of the Industrial Accident Board dismissing his petitions against a general contractor, Gulfstream Development Corporation, and a Gulfstream subcontractor, Delaware Siding Company. On appeal, Cordero argued that the Superior Court reversibly erred in interpreting 19 Del. C. sec. 2311(a)(5). Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Board's decision. View "Cordero v. Gulfstream Development Corporation" on Justia Law

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Appellant George Sweeney appealed a superior court order that affirmed a Merit Employee Relations Board (MERB) order denying his appeal from the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT) termination of his employment. While working as a Delaware government employee in a state government building, Sweeney made three postings on an internet forum about his personal political campaign. 29 Del. C. 5954 mandates that any government employee who engages in "political activity" at work must be terminated from his employment. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed that portion of the Superior Court order determining that Section 5954 did not violate Sweeney’s First Amendment right to free speech. However, the Court reversed and remanded the case back to the Superior Court for further proceedings to consider: (1) what constitutes "political activity" under Section 5954; and (2) whether Section 5954 is unconstitutionally overbroad or vague. View "Sweeney v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law