Alabama Supreme Court Addresses Exclusivity Doctrine in Assault Case
The Supreme Court recently released its decision in Ex Parte Lincare, Inc., which involved an employee who was allegedly assaulted by her supervisor on the employer’s premises immediately after she was terminated. The employee sued her employer for workers’ compensation benefits, and sued both her employer and her supervisor for assault, battery, and the tort of outrage. The employer and supervisor filed motions to dismiss and motions to sever, arguing that the workers’ compensation claim should be severed from the employee’s tort claims, and that the tort claims were due to be dismissed based on the exclusivity provisions of §§ 25-5-52 and 25-5-53 of The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. , The supervisor also filed a motion to strike the plaintiff’s jury demand, based on an agreement in the employee’s job application that stated such a waiver was a condition of hire. The trial court issued an order granting the severance, but denying the motions to dismiss and the motion to strike. Both defendants then filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that the employee’s alleged assault occurred in and arose out of her employment because it was precipitated by her resignation while she was on her employer’s premises and concerned her possession of certain documents owned by her employer. The Court also noted that the employee’s alleged injuries were not expected or intended by her employer, so they fell within the definition of a "accident" within the meaning of the Act. The Court noted that "even following an employee’s termination, the employee must be given a reasonable time to leave the premises before the employer-employee relationship is considered severed and the workers’ compensation act is rendered inapplicable". As such, the Supreme Court granted the employer’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding that the assault and battery claims were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act. However, the Supreme Court denied the supervisor’s petition for writ mandamus, because Alabama law provides for mandamus review of the denial of a motion to dismiss only in cases where the motion is based in immunity (as was the case for the employer, but not the supervisor). Finally, the Supreme Court denied the supervisor’s motion to strike the plaintiff’s jury demand, because the supervisor was not a party to the employment agreement.
About the Author
This article was written by Charley M. Drummond, Esq. of Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC. Fish Nelson & Holden is a law firm located in Birmingham, Alabama dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers, and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation cases and related liability matters. Drummond and his firm are members of The National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). The NWCDN is a national and Canadian network of reputable law firms organized to provide employers and insurers access to the highest quality representation in workers’ compensation and related employer liability fields. If you have questions about this article or Alabama workers’ compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 332-3414.