New Workers’ Compensation Decisions from Court of Appeals

On December 8, the North Carolina Court of Appeals published a couple of workers’ compensation decisions. In the first, Heflin v. G.R. Hammonds Roofing, the Court faced an unusual situation involving Florida’s workers’ comp laws and a plaintiff’s efforts to delay her own case. Plaintiff’s husband was killed while working in Florida in 2004. Because the plaintiff’s workers’ comp claim in Florida was initially denied, she pursued a wrongful death claim instead, as allowed under Florida law. To keep that suit going, she did not want to pursue a possible workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina. However, when she tried to stay her case in North Carolina, the Industrial Commission ignored her request. The Court vacated the Commission’s decision and remanded, holding that the plaintiff’s motion for a stay must be addressed, and hinting that it should be granted.

In Van Dyke v. CMI Terex Corp., the Court again dealt with the exclusivity of workers’ compensation claims, i.e. that the availability of workers’ compensation bars personal injury lawsuits against the employer and certain related parties.  In this case, the plaintiff brought suit because the decedent had been killed in an explosion at his workplace.  At issue was whether a particular defendant was sufficiently related to the employer so that the personal injury case against it was barred.  The defendant was the sole shareholder of an LLC (limited liability company), which was a member-manager of the employer, also an LLC.  Long story short, because the appealing defendant was not running the employer-company, and was not sued for doing so, the exclusivity of workers’ compensation did not protect it.