Missouri Supreme Court clarifies the limits of co-worker negligence liability for workplace injuries occurring between 2005 and 2012.

March 12, 2018

On March 6, 2018, the Missouri Supreme Court issued opinions in four companion cases dealing with co-worker liability for negligence personal injury claims occurring between 2005 and 2012, Conner v. Ogletree and Evans v. Wilson, Nos. SC95995 and SC95997 (consolidated), Fogerty v. Armstrong, No. SC96030, and McComb v. Norfus, No. SC96042.  During this time period, the Missouri workers’ compensation law did not release co-workers from liability resulting from a workplace accident if the co-worker breached a duty that was separate and distinct from the employer’s nondelegable duty to provide a safe workplace.  Applying this standard to various factual contexts in the four companion cases, the Missouri Supreme Court clarified that a co-worker can be held liable only if: (1) the co-worker breached a duty to the plaintiff that is unrelated to the co-worker’s employment; or (2) the co-employee created a transitory risk in performing workplace duties and that risk was not reasonably foreseeable by the employer in carrying out the employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace to its employees.  In each case, the Court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that their co-workers breached any duty separate and distinct from the employer’s nondelagable duty to provide a safe workplace. The workers’ compensation statute was amended in 2012 to include coverage for co-workers, so worker injuries that occurred after the amendment are exclusively compensable through workers’ compensation claims.

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