Intentional tort lawsuit moves forward

Michigan Court of Appeals decision shows intentional tort lawsuit still a viable option for employees hurt on-the-job.


The Michigan Court of Appeals has released a new unpublished decision, Kyle Scheuneman v Kent Power Inc. (No. 344109), regarding intentional tort. It involves a man who contacted live electrical power lines and was hurt on-the-job. It was alleged that the employer failed to provide him with necessary safety training and equipment. The primary legal issue was whether plaintiffs’ complaint was conclusory and failed to set forth facts to support the requisite knowledge or intent. The trial court granted summary disposition in favor of the defendant. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed and remanded finding no heightened standard of pleading needed for intentional tort. It also stated that the complaint did set fort allegations that, if ultimately supported by admissible evidence, could establish that defendant knew injury would inevitably occur.

Many of our clients are discouraged when they cannot file a negligence lawsuit against their employer. It does not matter how outrageous the situation because they are limited by the exclusive remedy provision. This says an employee hurt on-the-job gets medical treatment and wage loss benefits under workers’ compensation regardless of fault. However, they cannot sue an employer for additional damages like pain and suffering. It is a basic compromise of interests that has been around for over 100 years now.

Intentional tort is a rare exception to the exclusive remedy provision. This allows for an employee to collect workers’ compensation benefits and file a separate lawsuit for additional damages. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is very difficult. It must be proven that an employer acted deliberately and intended to cause injury. This can be established through evidence showing an employer had actual knowledge that injury was certain to occur and willfully disregarded that knowledge. It is not enough to show that an employer merely should have known that injury would occur.

An obvious situation that would fall into the intentional tort exception is when an employer physically assaults an employee. Watch out for situations when an employer uses tools, materials, or machinery to strike an employee. It is also possible to prove intentional tort when evidence shows a history of other employees getting hurt in the exact same manner. Putting employees in situations they are certain to be hurt would also qualify. This might involve machinery that is missing safety guards or being exposed to hazardous items without proper safety equipment.

Proving an intentional tort case is extremely hard. Circumstantial evidence can be presented but it is not enough to show constructive, implied, or imputed knowledge on behalf of the employer. Despite the difficult burden of proof, we recommend speaking with an experienced attorney about intentional tort. It is important to explore all potential sources of recovery when someone has severe and permanent injuries.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.

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