The workers’ compensation statute contains a provision that prevents an injured worker from pursuing a tort action against his employer and his co-workers, N.J.S.A. 34:15-8. The Appellate Division recently issued a decision addressing the issue of whether a third-party tortfeasor can maintain a cause of action against the employer or a negligent co-employee, McDaniel v. Lee, Docket No. A-5900-09T1, decided April 27, 2011.
In this case, McDaniel and his co-worker were stopped at a red light when the defendant, Lee, failed to stopped his truck striking the co-worker causing a chain reaction crash. Both men filed workers’ compensation claims and both men filed complaints in the Law Division alleging negligence on the part of Lee. Lee then filed a claim against the employer and the co-employee seeking indemnification and contribution.
It has long been established that so long as the plaintiff suffers a compensable injury, the plaintiff and defendant are co-employees and the defendant was acting in the course of his employment, the claim is barred. The Court held that, in order to maintain consistency, the employer and co-employee can never be considered a joint tortfeasors. Therefore, there cannot be a claim for apportionment of liability and both the employer and the co-employee are immune from suit.
If you have been hurt at work, call us for a free consultation. We have experienced trial attorneys who are able to handle complex legal issues in both workers’ compensation and third-party liability cases.