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Florida high court sides with employees—Employers liable for unconcealed negligence

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The Florida Supreme Court has upheld an employee’s right to sue his or her employer directly for intentional torts even when the same employee receives workers’ comp for the injury. In effect, when an employee can show the employer was at fault and intentionally ignored a dangerous condition, the employee can recover twice.

Recent case: Martin Bakerman fell from a rickety ladder while retrieving merchandise for a Bombay Company customer. The fall pulverized Bakerman’s heel. He was awarded workers’ compensation benefits, but also sued his employer for intentional harm. A jury heard that the ladder was wobbly, old and unsafe and that Bombay management had been informed about the danger many times. It awarded Bakerman over $100,000.

Bombay argued it wasn’t liable because the law only applies to concealed dangers, not obvious ones like the ladder. But the Supreme Court of Florida disagreed and upheld the jury award. (Bakerman v. The Bombay Company, No. SC05-358, Supreme Court of Florida, 2007)

Final note: The Florida legislature just amended the law to require that employer concealment of danger be a requirement for an employee lawsuit. That will make it harder—but not impossible—for employees to double-dip damages. The fact that the Florida Supreme Court ruled on the Bakerman case may also indicate that it will bend over backward to let an employee recover even under the new, stricter rule.

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