South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Birthday Spanking at Work Could Be Intentional Tort
Description Minnesota high court held that a worker who suffered injuries when spanked with a wooden paddle for his birthday could proceed with his intentional tort suit against the workers who spanked him. He could not sue his employer; his remedy was restricted to workers' compensation benefits.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Torts; Workers' Compensation; Birthday Spanking; Defenses
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts For years, the union employees at Loram gave each other birthday spankings. A wooden paddle was used. Meintsma, a new employee, did not want to participate, but he was wrestled to the ground and spanked. He contended he was hit hard and suffered injuries; other employees discounted that. Meintsma filed criminal charges against the employees. As a result, the employees plead guilty to disorderly conduct. Meintsma sued the employees for assault and battery and sued Loram for various tort claims. He contended that since he suffered an intentional tort, he was not required to use workers' compensation as his only remedy. Proceedings below were complicated; the matter was appealed.
Decision

Loram is not liable for intentional tort. Meintsma has not shown any involvement by the employer. Managers were aware of the birthday spanking practice, which had gone on for years, but had found no reason to intervene. Loram had no conscious or deliberate intent to have injury inflicted on Meintsma, so his only claim with respect to Loram would be under workers' compensation. However, a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the co-workers intended to inflict injury, so his claim of intentional tort against them may proceed.

Citation Meintsma v. Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc., 684 N.W.2d 434 (Sup. Ct., Minn., 2004)

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