South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Lack of Safety Equipment Not Basis for Tort against Employer
Description Montana high court held that an employee who was seriously injured when he fell from a ladder could not sue his employer in tort. Workers' compensation was the exclusive remedy because the lack of safety equipment did not show an intentional and malicious act by the employer.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Torts; Workers' Compensation; Exclusive Remedy
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Roy worked for twenty years as a lineman for the Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative. He fell 18 feet from an aerial ladder, breaking his neck. There was agreement by Roy and Blackfoot that if he had been wearing a safety belt he probably would not have fallen, but he had not been provided a safety belt; it was not company policy to have one, and it had not been discussed in safety training. Roy sued Blackfoot in tort for his injuries. The trial court dismissed the case, holding that his exclusive remedy was workers' compensation. Roy appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. An exception to the exclusive remedy of workers' compensation exists in cases of intentional and malicious acts or omissions by an employer. This can hold whether the employer acted with intentional indifference to or disregarded knowledge that there was a high probability of injury. The fact that the employer did not train linemen to use safety belts for ladders does not establish the employer's knowledge of a high probability that Roy would be injured if he did not use a safety belt while working on a ladder. This case does not fall under the intentional and malicious act or omission exception.

Citation Roy v. Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative, 101 P.3d 301 (Sup. Ct., Mont., 2004)

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