North Carolina Court Bars Injured Employee’s Civil Lawsuit Against Employer, Again…

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In North Carolina the redress for an on-the-job injury is strictly limited to the “exclusive remedy” provision of the NC’s Workers’ Compensation Act.  Under this Act, jurisdiction is given to the NC Industrial Commission and it does not make a determination of fault, but rather makes benefit-based, damage-types decisions.  

In 1991, the North Carolina Supreme Court in the case of Woodson v. Rowland created a very narrow exception to the exclusive remedy provisions of the Act by permitting an employee to assert a claim against an employer for civil liability when the employer “intentionally engages in misconduct knowing it is substantially certain to cause serious injury or death to employees and an employee is injured or killed by that misconduct.” 

The cases that followed Woodsonhowever, have shown that NC courts consistently dismiss an employee’s civil injury lawsuit because the facts weren’t analogous to the egregious facts of Woodson.  See, e.g., Pendergrass v. Card Care, Whitaker v. Scotland Neck and very recently in Estate of Vaughn v. Pike Electric (Nov. 2013).  In short, in North Carolina the bar remains extremely high for an injured employee to bring a civil lawsuit against an employer.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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