Peters v. Terrio – Exclusive Remedy of Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law

Peters v. Terrio – Exclusive Remedy of Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law

Workers who are hurt – even killed – in an on-the-job accident are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, Missouri law – like that in many other states – holds that these benefits are to serve as the “exclusive remedy” to injured workers.
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That means they can’t sue their employers, co-workers or supervisors for negligence. The trade-off is supposed to be the worker doesn’t have the burden of proving negligence (one need only show the accident occurred in the course of work), and benefits are generally secured faster than damages might be awarded in litigation. However, workers’ compensation benefits tend to be less than what one might receive in a lawsuit, and they are only for a limited amount of time.

There is sometimes an option to file a lawsuit against a non-employer third-party, such as a manufacturer or property owner. However, those cases have to be carefully vetted by an experienced injury attorney.

Our St. Louis workers’ compensation attorneys know there are also some rare circumstances in which workers can seek exception to state law and be granted permission to pursue a negligence claim against an employer for an on-the-job injury or fatality. The case of Peters v. Terrio shows how difficult it can be.

Here, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer/defendant, who claimed immunity under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation exclusive remedy provision.

According to court records, plaintiff worked for a company that provided a number of services to general contractors in the construction industry. One of those services included delivery of dowel baskets (200-pound rebar paver baskets). This is what the worker was doing when he was hurt. He was reportedly struck by the equipment when it fell onto him as he was unloading it from a truck. His injuries were described as “permanent and catastrophic.”

The lawsuit asserts the supervisor and company received numerous prior warnings from employees regarding the safety hazard posed by the way these devices were stacked. In spite of this, the supervisor continue to order them stacked in the same manner.

The worker alleged the company breached a duty to exercise reasonable care by:

    • Allowing the baskets to be transported on a flatbed at a level that exceeded a height deemed safe;
    • Failing to make sure the baskets were secured properly for safe transport and unloading;
    • Not providing sufficient help;
    • Not providing help that was trained adequately;
    • Not providing a proper unloading area;
    • Failing to heed warnings of employees concerned about safety;
    • Allowing unsafe practice to become standard procedure;
    • Ordering plaintiff to load, stack, transport and unload the materials in a way that was not safe.

The employer/supervisor moved to dismiss, citing the Missouri Workers’ Compensation exclusive remedy provision. Specifically, there had been no allegation to indicate the supervisor acted outside the scope of duty. The trial court agreed.On appeal, the worker argued the supervisor acted in an affirmative negligent manner that was a breach of duty independent of the company’s non-delegable duty to provide a safe working environment.

The appellate court disagreed, and affirmed the earlier dismissal.

Courts in Missouri adhere to the “something more” doctrine when it comes to co-worker or supervisor liability in cases of work-related injuries. That is, in order for an employer to be held personally liable for the injuries of a fellow worker, he or she must have engaged in some “affirmative, purposeful and dangerous act outside the scope of the employer’s non-delegable duty.”

Here, the court determined that burden was not met.

Additional Resources:
Peters v. Terrio, Sept. 9, 2014, Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District

More Blog Entries:
Donahue v. Ledgends, Inc. – Waivers Don’t Offer Limitless Release of Liability, Aug. 15, 2014, St. Louis Construction Injury Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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