As previously reported on November 21, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court has narrowly construed the “presumption of a deliberate intent to injury” in workplace injury torts.
In the related intentional case of Houdek v. ThyssennKruppMaterials, the Ohio Supreme Court on December 6, 2012, reinstated a summary judgment granted to the Employer. The Houdek case involved a “struck by forklift” accident in a narrow warehouse aisle where Mr. Houdek was assigned light duty work. The allegation was that the Employer directed a forklift operator to retrieve materials “at maximum speed” from the same narrow aisle way. While the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals viewed these as sufficient facts for a jury to infer a “deliberate intent to injure” as required under the intentional tort statute, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed. The six-to-one majority (Justice Pfeifer in dissent again) held that these facts did not rise to the level of a “deliberate intent to injure.” The trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the Employer was reinstated.
The combination of the Hewitt and Houdek cases should serve to discourage the filing of lawsuits over workplace injuries and keep the coverage of such injuries to the realm of workers’ compensation (where they belong). However, insurance coverage remains problematical for such cases. To the extent employers still face them they likely will have to defend them on their own.