Thursday, January 4, 2024

Superior Court Addresses Applicability of Immunity Afforded To Third Party Defendants In Work Injury Cases

In the case of Brown v. Gaydos, No. 1132 WDA 2021 (Pa. Super. Dec. 7, 2023 en banc) (Op. by McCaffery, J.)(Stabile, J., Dissenting), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed issues regarding whether or not a Defendant was statutorily immune from liability under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act as the Plaintiff’s employer or co-employee under the facts presented.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant individual for injuries that the Plaintiff sustained while operating a skid loader that the Defendant owned.

At the time of the accident, the Plaintiff was an employee of a company which the Defendant partly owned.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff had previously made a successful claim for workers’ compensation from the company that both men worked for at the time of the incident. The Plaintiff then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the individual Defendant failed to properly maintain the skid loader or train the Plaintiff on how to use the device.

The Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging that he was immune to the personal injury lawsuit under the Workers’ Compensation Act because he was the Plaintiff’s co-employee at the same company.

The court noted that the under the Workers’ Compensation At, employees who received workers’ compensation benefit generally may not sue their employers or co-employees for work-related injuries. Relative to protections afforded to co-employees, a co-employee may secure immunity for negligent actions that caused a Plaintiff’s injuries while the co-employee and the Plaintiff were “in the same employ.”

In this case, the Plaintiff argued that he was suing the Defendant in his capacity as the owner of the skid loader, not as a co-employee and, therefore, the Defendant was not immune from suit.

The majority of the Superior Court ruled in this matter that there were genuine issues of material facts regarding the ownership and the use of the skid loader. The majority ruled that the Plaintiff’s claim with respect to the co-employee immunity issue hinged on whether or not the Plaintiff had been working in the course of his duties as an employee of the employer company at the time of the accident.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  Judge Stabile's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed HERE.

Source: Article - “Workers’ Comp Immunity May Not Shield Construction Company Owner From Job Site Injury Suit, Appeals Court Rules” by Aleza Furman of Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 8, 2023).

Source of image:  Photo by Silvia Brazzoduro on

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