A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Federal Court Rejects Civil Law Suit By Injured Employee

By on February 15, 2018 in Court Rulings with 0 Comments

Brian Sims suffered a terrible injury working for Express Scripts, Inc. (hereinafter ESI) on August 24, 2015 when his hand was caught in an industrial machine, leading to the amputation of his left hand and wrist.  He brought a civil law suit against his employer alleging willful and intentional conduct.  Express Scripts moved to dismiss the complaint as barred by the exclusive remedy rule in the Division of Workers’ Compensation.

In evaluating the motion to dismiss the complaint, the Court noted that plaintiff did allege that the conduct of defendants was intentional by altering or removing safety features or permitting the non-existence of safety features.  The Court said, “Plaintiff makes only conclusory statements that ESI acted ‘knowing with substantial certainty’ that injury would result from its actions; he alleges no facts or circumstances to support that claim. . . “  The Court added that plaintiff failed to indicate what specific safety features were missing, who altered or removed them, and how these safety features might have prevented Plaintiff’s injury.  The Court said, “Plaintiff’s mere recital of a requirement of the ‘intentional wrong’ exception cannot survive ESI’s motion to dismiss.”

The Court said it was not enough to just allege that a safety guard was missing:  “Here, Plaintiff has not identified what specific safety device was allegedly removed or altered and for what reason, nor that ESI was ‘substantially certain’ that injury to its workers would occur as a result of such conduct.”   The Court noted that removal of a safety device standing alone does not equate to “intentional wrong.”

The Court granted ESI’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, allowing plaintiff one more opportunity to provide a factual basis for the alleged intentional harm allegations.

This case underscores a strong theme in New Jersey case law, namely that it remains extremely difficult to surmount the exclusive remedy hurdle in this state.  It is not enough to file a complaint that provides the magic words regarding substantial certainty to cause injury.  One must provide factual support for the allegations or risk having the case dismissed.

This case can be found at Sims v. VC999 Packaging Sys., D. N.J. (January 24, 2018).


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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.


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