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February 05, 2021

The Workers' Compensation Law provides the exclusive remedy if an employee is injured by a coworker while both are performing the duties of their positions

In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the petitioners* appealed the Supreme Court granting the respondents, a Police District and a coworker, respective motions to dismiss the complaint insofar as they were named as a defendants.

The genesis of this action was an accident involving a police officer [Plaintiff] operating a Police District police motorcycle in his official capacity colliding with a Police District vehicle operated by another Police District police officer. Supreme Court granted the Police District's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint based on the Police District's argument that Plaintiffs' action was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Law. Plaintiffs appealed the court's ruling.

The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court "properly granted" the Police District's motion explaining that in considering a motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(1), "the documentary evidence must utterly refute the plaintiff's factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law."

Citing Gould v Decolator, 121 AD3d 845, the Appellate Division observed that the Police District had submitted documentary evidence conclusively establishing that the Petitioners' causes of action insofar as asserted against it were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Law.

In addition, the Appellate Division opined that Supreme Court properly awarded summary judgment to Plaintiff''s coworker as the Workers' Compensation Law was "designed to ensure that an employee injured in the course of his or her employment will be made whole and to protect a co-employee who, acting within the scope of his or her employment, caused the injury." Further, the court observed that Workers' compensation qualifies as an exclusive remedy when both the plaintiff and the defendant are acting within the scope of their employment, as co-employees, at the time of injury," citing Macchirole v Giamboi, 97 NY2d 147. 

The Appellate Division also noted that §29[6] of the Workers' Compensation Law provides that the right to compensation or benefits under this chapter, "shall be the exclusive remedy to an employee ... when such employee is injured or killed by the negligence or wrong of another in the same employ" and a coworker has the protection of this exclusivity provision if he "was acting within the scope of his employment and was not engaged in a willful or intentional tort."

The Appellate Division held that, in this instance, the defendant police officer had established his prima facieentitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against him by establishing that both he and the Plaintiff were co-employees acting within the scope of their employment when the Plaintiff was injured.

* A police officer and his spouse suing derivatively were the petitioners in this action.

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision.

 

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