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Personal injury claim over kick to groin barred by exclusive remedy

Firefighter ruling

A firefighter failed to show that his co-worker intentionally kicked him in the groin and that the captain and fire department were liable for his injuries.

In Tibbett v. Los Angeles County Fire Department, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of California in Los Angeles on Wednesday affirmed a jury’s ruling that a firefighter’s unintentional injuries were barred by the exclusive remedy of workers compensation.

On Feb. 19, 2011, Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter Joshua Tibbett brought up an encounter he’d had two days earlier with a hostile victim and his unhappiness with the way the situation was handled during a meeting with the fire captain and his coworkers. He claimed that the fire captain asked him to stand up, placed a clipboard in front of his face and said “this is what you can do the next time to get somebody away from you” and kicked him in the groin with a steel-toed shoe.

The fire captain, who had known Mr. Tibbett and his father, who was a firefighter for the department before him, said he was showing Mr. Tibbett a maneuver to keep volatile patients away by obstructing their vision, and if necessary, take them to the ground, but said Mr. Tibbett moved toward him during the demonstration causing them to make contact. He also testified that he regretted the injury incurred by Mr. Tibbett every day.

The firefighter said he experienced great pain and went to the hospital that night, and had an emergency surgery to remove his left testicle and underwent more surgeries that rendered him sterile.

A jury held that the fire captain did not intend to harm Mr. Tibbett, and that therefore workers compensation was the exclusive remedy for nonintentional workplace injuries and he could not pursue his claims for battery against the fire captain or liability against the fire department.

Mr. Tibbett filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied, and he appealed.

A California appellate court affirmed the jury’s ruling. Although he argued that substantial evidence does not support the jury’s findings, the appellate court disagreed, finding that the testimony of the fire captain and other firefighters does not compel the conclusion that the fire captain intended to harm Mr. Tibbett.

Though Mr. Tibbett also argued that cumulative errors required a reversal of the jury’s decision, the appellate court held that Mr. Tibbett failed to identify an individual error, and that therefore there was no cumulative error.

Attorneys in the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.




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