Alabama Supreme Court Holds that Employers Have Complete Immunity to Tort Claims and Employers’ Liability Act Claims when Workers’ Compensation Act Applies
On March 18, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a Writ of Mandamus to the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, in the case ofEx parte Rock Wool Manufacturing Company, directing the trial court to enter an order dismissing multiple tort claims and a claim under the Employers’ Liability Act brought by Palmer Cason and his wife, Jessie Cason, against Mr. Cason’s employer, Rock Wool Manufacturing Company. Palmer Cason made a workers’ compensation claim for injuries he allegedly sustained in July of 2014 while working for Rock Wool. The claim was accepted and Mr. Cason was paid benefits in accordance with The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. However, in October 2014, Cason sued Rock Wool, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and outrage. Mr. Cason later asserted a claim under the Alabama Employer’s Liability Act, and Mrs. Cason brought a claim for loss of consortium. Rock Wool filed a Motion to Dismiss all of the Casons’ claims, asserting that they were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court denied Rock Wool’s motion, and Rock Wool filed its Petition for Writ of Mandamus.
Rock Wool asserted that it was immune from suit in tort pursuant to the "exclusivity provisions" (§§ 25-5-52 and 25-5-53) of The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Those sections provide that, where the injury occurs in and arises out of the course of the employment, workers’ compensation benefits are the employee’s sole remedy against the employer.
The Supreme Court noted that there was no dispute as to whether Mr. Cason’s injury occurred in and arose out of his employment, so the exclusivity provisions required that the tort claims be dismissed. The Court further held that the Employer’s Liability Act and The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act are mutually exclusive, and there can be no claim under the Employers’ Liability Act where both the employee and employer are subject to The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. Finally, the Court agreed with Rock Wool in regard to Mrs. Cason’s consortium claim. As a result, the Supreme Court granted the Petition and issued a Writ of Mandamus directing the trial court to enter an order dismissing all of the Casons’ claims against Rock Wool.
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.