Injured Worker Can Sue Employer in Tort


An employer can be sued in tort for a worker's injury -- despite workers' comp -- if it should have known that an injury was "substantially certain" to occur, even if it didn't have actual knowledge, says the Florida Supreme Court in reversing a summary judgment.

The plaintiff was injured in an accident at a chemical plant while working with a highly explosive compound using a procedure developed by the employer.

Under state law, workers' comp is not a bar to an intentional tort claim if the employer "engaged in conduct which is substantially certain to result in injury or death."

The company argued that it wasn't liable because it didn't actually know that the procedure was "substantially certain" to cause death or injury.

But the court said that the correct test was "whether a reasonable person would understand that the employer's conduct was 'substantially certain' to result in injury or death to the employee...[T]he employer's actual intent is not controlling...

"To hold otherwise would virtually encourage a practice of 'willful blindness' on the part of employers who could ignore conditions that under an objective test would be found to be dangerous, and later claim lack of subjective knowledge or intent to harm an employee."


Florida Supreme Court. Turner v. PCR, Inc., No. SC94468. March 2, 2000.