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Worker can't sue employer if collecting workers comp benefits: Va. high court

Worker can't sue employer if collecting workers comp benefits: Va. high court

RICHMOND, Va.—A worker cannot sue an employer in addition to collecting workers compensation benefits, even when the employer fails to purchase mandatory workers comp insurance, Virginia's Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In the case of Barry Wyatt Redifer vs. Francis Chester et al., Mr. Redifer suffered an injury in October 2006 when his right arm got caught in a wool manufacturing machine.

Mr. Chester, meanwhile, maintained workers comp insurance for his law firm but not for his operations involving raising sheep and manufacturing wool.

Mr. Redifer filed a workers comp claim for the accident and also filed a lawsuit seeking damages for negligence.

An appeals court eventually found that Mr. Redifer was eligible for workers comp benefits, and Mr. Chester moved to dismiss the civil suit, arguing the action was bared by the workers comp benefits award.

The employer also paid for Mr. Redifer's medical care and paid his workers comp disability benefits, court records state.

Mr. Redifer argued that he could pursue a civil action despite receiving workers comp benefits, because an employer that does not obtain insurance, as required by law, is not entitled to the limited liability provided under the workers comp system, even when the employer pays an award under workers comp law.

But the Circuit Court of Augusta County eventually dismissed Mr. Redifer's complaint, and he appealed to Virginia's Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the employer, however, finding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the case and ruling that Mr. Redifer cannot pursue a lawsuit against his employer “after obtaining a final collectible award of workers compensation benefits.”