SW Legal studies in Business

Employee Must Show Intentional Tort by Employer to Avoid Workers' Compensation Remedy
Description Appeals court held that unless a worker can show that an employer committed an intentional tort to cause injury, workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for an employee injured on the job. Allegations of careless use of chemicals that could cause harm does not rise to the level of intentional tort.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Workers' Compensation; Torts; Health Risk
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Bock worked at a General Motors engine plant. In the process of engine assembly, Metal Working Fluids (MWF) are used to cool and lubricate the parts. Bock contended that she was exposed to MWF that had excessive levels of chemicals that caused respiratory problems. She sued GM for intentional tort, contending that GM knew the levels of exposure were above the level considered to be safe. GM moved to have the suit dismissed, arguing that Bock's remedy was through workers' compensation and that she had no basis for a tort action. The trial court refused to dismiss the suit; GM appealed.

Reversed. "The primary purpose of the worker's compensation act is to provide benefits to the victims of work related injuries by allocating the burden of the payments on the employer and ultimately the consumer. Regardless of fault, an employee who suffers an injury arising out of and in the course of employment is eligible for compensation. The worker's compensation act provides that employee compensation is the exclusive remedy for a personal injury, except for an injury resulting from an intentional tort." Here, Bock has failed to establish that injury was likely to occur from GM's actions. The evidence that tests on animals indicate that high levels of exposure to the chemicals in question can cause damage is not sufficient to state an action of intentional tort. Bock has not shown that GM had a reckless disregard for the health, safety, and welfare of its employees, which is the standard for intentional tort.

Citation Bock v. General Motors, 2001 WL 824456 (Ct. App., Mich., 2001)

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