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Injured worker cannot prove employer intended to harm him: Court

Injured worker cannot prove employer intended to harm him: Court

An employer is not liable for an intentional tort in a worker-injury case because the employee failed to prove the employer intended deliberate harm, Ohio's Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The Supreme Court ruling in Houdek v. ThyssenKrupp Materials N.A. Inc. clarified a 2005 statute specifying that employers are not liable for intentional torts unless an employee proves “the employer committed the tortious act with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur,” according to the opinion.

Mr. Houdek suffered a broken leg and shattered ankle in 2008 when a sideloader pinned him against a scissor lift he had been using while replacing labels on merchandise situated on warehouse storage racks.

At the time, Mr. Houdek was on light duty restrictions after a workplace back injury he suffered earlier in the year.

After the latest accident, Mr. Houdek sued ThyssenKrupp, alleging the company deliberately intended to injure him by directing him to work in the warehouse area where it knew injury would be certain or substantially certain to occur.

But a trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Mr. Houdek failed to prove his employer intended to injure him.

An appeals court reversed, however. It applied an objective test and found there was a possibility the employer could have objectively believed that the injury to Mr. Houdek was substantially certain to occur.

A 5-1 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court was not convinced.

Although evidence showed that ThyssenKrupp may have placed Mr. Houdek in a potentially dangerous situation, it does not show that the employer deliberately intended to injure him, the majority said.