Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court
Gibbs v. Newport News Shipbuildng & Drydock Co.
This appeal from an order dismissing an action for wrongful death presented the question whether the decedent, who was serving on active duty with the armed forces of the United States at the time of his injury, was covered by the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act. If his injury, which was the subject of this action, came within the purview of the Act, an award under the Act would have been his estate's exclusive remedy, barring this action. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the decedent never acquired the right to seek compensation under the Act, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the action. View "Gibbs v. Newport News Shipbuildng & Drydock Co." on Justia Law
Omega Protein, Inc. v. Forrest
In this personal injury action, Plaintiff sued Employer under the Jones Act for an injury to his back sustained in the course of his employment with Employer as a crew member aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Plaintiff's ultimate negligence liability theory at trial was that Employer breached its duty of care by not obtaining an MRI as part of his pre-employment physical. The trial court awarded damages to Plaintiff upon a jury verdict. The Supreme Court reversed and entered final judgment in favor of Employer, holding that, as a matter of law, there was no evidence of causation presented in the trial of Plaintiff's negligence claim against Employer under the Jones Act. View "Omega Protein, Inc. v. Forrest" on Justia Law
Inova Health Care Servs. v. Kebaish
At issue in this appeal was whether the circuit court erred in allowing Plaintiff to take a nonsuit as a matter of right pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 8.01-380(B) based on its determination that Plaintiff's prior voluntary dismissal in federal court was not a nonsuit under section 8.01-380. In Virginia, a plaintiff may take only one nonsuit as a matter of right. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that Plaintiff was permitted to take a nonsuit as a matter of right pursuant to section 8.01-380(B), holding (1) Va. Code Ann. 8.01-229(E)(3) does not confirm or suggest that a voluntary dismissal taken pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i) is a nonsuit for purposes of section 8.01-380; and (2) Plaintiff's prior voluntary dismissal in federal court was not substantially equivalent to Virginia's nonsuit in this regard. View "Inova Health Care Servs. v. Kebaish" on Justia Law
Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd.
Seaman filed this action to recover maintenance and cure and compensatory and punitive damages from his former employer (Employer), claiming that he suffered PTSD and depression as a result of being gang-raped by uniformed Korean police officers while he was on shore leave from Employer's ship docked in Korea. The jury awarded Seaman $20,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. The circuit court granted Employer's motion for partial summary judgment precluding Seaman's denial of maintenance and cure, set aside the punitive damages award, and remitted the compensatory damages award to $2,000,000. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues relating to the seaworthiness and Jones Act claims regarding Employer's actions after Seaman returned to the ship, and Seaman's claim for maintenance and cure benefits, holding (1) the circuit court erred by not ordering a new trial after concluding that the maintenance and cure claim for compensatory and punitive damages should not have been submitted to the jury; and (2) the circuit court erred in refusing the instruction proffered by Employer quoting the circuit court's pre-trial ruling on the Jones Act and seaworthiness claims, and the refusal was not harmless. View "Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd." on Justia Law
Napper v. ABM Janitorial Servs.
Kesha Napper, one of Kastle Systems' employees, slipped during work hours in the lobby of the building owned by Kastle. Napper filed suit alleging negligence against the janitorial services companies who cleaned the building and the property management company (Defendants). Defendants filed a plea in bar, arguing that because Napper had been receiving workers' compensation benefits in connection with her injury, Napper's claims were barred by the workers' compensation exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act. The trial court sustained Defendants' plea in bar and dismissed Napper's complaint with prejudice, finding that Napper and Defendants were statutory co-employees for purposes of the workers' compensation scheme. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in sustaining Defendants' plea in bar because Napper's action against Defendants was not barred by the workers' compensation exclusivity provision in the Act, as, (1) under Floyd v. Mitchell, Defendants were other parties as contemplated by the Act and strangers to Kastle's particular business of operating a call center; and (2) thus, Defendants and Napper were not statutory fellow employees. Remanded.
Mansfield v. Bernabei
After his employment was terminated at Horizon House, Michael Ford filed a complaint against the three corporate employers vested with the authority to fire him, including the Horizon House homeowners association. James Mansfield served as counsel to Horizon House. Ford sent a demand letter and a draft complaint marked "for settlement purposes only" to numerous individuals and entities. Ford then filed a complaint, substantially similar to the draft complaint, in the U.S. district court against several defendants, including Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently filed a complaint against Ford and others (Defendants), alleging that he was defamed by statements made about him in the draft complaint. The circuit court sustained Defendants' demurrers, ruling that the allegations made in the draft complaint, sent before the lawsuit was filed, were privileged. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that absolute privilege attached to the draft complaint.
Ilg v. United Parcel Serv.
Employee suffered an injury during the course of his employment. Employer agreed to voluntarily pay workers' compensation benefits, and the Workers Compensation Commission issued an award order approving the agreements between Employee and Employer. Employer then filed an application with the Commission seeking to suspend Employee's benefits under the order for unjustifiably refusing to participate in vocational rehabilitation. The Commission denied the application. The court of appeals reversed. At issue on appeal was whether Employee should be permitted to offer evidence that his refusal to accept vocational rehabilitation services was justified because of a disabling injury that arose out of the same industrial accident for which he was awarded benefits, but which was not expressly designated in the award as a compensable injury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in determining that Employee was precluded from asserting that his refusal of vocational rehabilitation was justified. Remanded for an evidentiary proceeding so Employee could show his refusal was justified in light of his disabling injury.
Giordano v. McBar Indus., Inc.
Scott and Martha Giordano were married and later separated. Scott was subsequently killed while working as an insulator in a building. Martha filed a claim for benefits with the Workers' Compensation Commission. The deputy commissioner determined that Martha was not a dependent of Scott and, therefore, was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Subsequently, Martha, as personal representative Scott's estate, filed a wrongful death claim against Defendants, Scott's employer, the employer's subcontractors, and a supplier of a product used in the construction process (Builder's Supply). The circuit court sustained Defendants' pleas in bar, concluding that the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act barred Martha's action. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in holding that the exclusivity provision barred a non-dependent individual who was not eligible to collect benefits under the Act from bringing an action in tort; but (2) the court erred in holding that this provision of the Act barred an action in tort against Builder's Supply, as mere delivery of product was not within the trade, business or occupation of Scott's employer.
Thorpe v. Ted Bowling Constr.
Matthew Thorpe was the owner of a self-storage facility and operated a side business that installed residential porch railings. While installing metal sheets on the roof of a customer's building, Thorpe fell through a skylight to his death. His widow, Alissa Thorpe, filed with the Workers' Compensation Commission a claim for worker's compensation benefits. The deputy commissioner (1) found Alissa was entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act, and (2) awarded $48 payable weekly for 500 weeks. The Commission agreed with the deputy commissioner, and the court of appeals affirmed. Alissa appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred in holding that $48 was Thorpe's average weekly wage applicable to the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the deputy commissioner did not err in determining Thorpe's average weekly wage.
Christy v. Mercury Cas. Co.
During the course of his employment as a police officer for the Town of Abingdon, Kevin Christy suffered injuries from an automobile accident. Christy was insured under an automobile liability insurance policy issued by Mercury Casualty Company (Mercury). Christy submitted a claim to Mercury for payment of the portion of his medical expenses not paid by the Town's workers' compensation carrier. Mercury denied the claim, asserting that an exclusion in the policy barred Christy from receiving any payment for medical expenses because a portion of those expenses had been paid by workers' compensation benefits. Christy filed a warrant in debt against Mercury seeking contract damages. The district court entered judgment in favor of Christy. The circuit court reversed, concluding that, based on the unambiguous language of the exclusion, payment of workers' compensation triggered the exclusion and precluded payment by Mercury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the language of the exclusion was clear and that the exclusion permitted Mercury to deny coverage for any expenses that would have been subject to workers' compensation coverage without regard to whether all of those expenses were actually paid by the workers' compensation carrier.