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Husband can’t sue for negligence in wife’s workplace murder: Court

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The husband of a woman who was murdered while working at a Virginia apartment complex cannot sue the owner and manager of the complex for negligence because her death is classified as a workplace accident and workers compensation is the exclusive remedy, a federal court has ruled.

According to Tyrone Reed Scott v. CG Bellkor L.L.C. et al., Della Scott worked as a leasing agent at the Chamberlayne Garden Apartments in Richmond, Virginia, in December 2013 when a man identified as Benjamin Dancy entered the leasing office and asked to speak with an employee who no longer worked there. After Ms. Scott told Mr. Dancy that the employee no longer worked there, Mr. Dancy robbed Ms. Scott and stabbed her multiple times. Ms. Scott died of her injuries, court records show.

Ms. Scott’s husband, Tyrone Scott, filed two identical claims against four defendants, seeking $100 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages. Mr. Scott alleged that Ms. Scott observed criminal activity near the apartments and requested that management hire security to patrol the area and protect employees, according to court documents.

Two of the defendants were dropped from the cases, and the remaining two cases were combined. Defendants Fickling Management Services L.L.C., based in Macon, Georgia, and Blue Valley Apartments Inc., based in West Palm Beach, Florida, each moved to have the case dismissed, court records show.

The U.S. District Court in Richmond granted the two motions to dismiss the case Monday, saying Ms. Scott’s death was a workplace accident compensable under the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act. 

The court used a three-pronged assessment to evaluate whether Ms. Scott’s death was a workplace injury, including whether the injury was an accident, whether it arose from her employment and whether it happened in the course of her employment. The court answered yes to all three questions.

“Even though Ms. Scott’s death resulted from an intentional act, intentional torts may constitute accidents under the VWCA,” the court said. “Ms. Scott’s death resulted from an identifiable incident at a particular time and place. As such, her death constitutes an ‘injury by accident’ under the VWCA.” 

Further, the court found that the injury arose out of her employment because she was targeted as an employee, not out of a personal relationship. Finally, the court determined that Ms. Scott’s death occurred in the course of her employment.

“Ms. Scott’s death resulted from injuries she suffered at work during her normal working hours, as she fulfilled her duties of employment, and in a place where she reasonably was allowed to be,” the court said. “The court agrees with the defendants. Plaintiff’s exclusive remedy lies in the VWCA, which bars him from seeking redress in this court.”

Representatives from Fickling Management Services and Blue Valley Apartments were not immediately available to comment.