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Pipeline worker cannot sue employer: West Virginia appeals court

Posted On: Mar. 8, 2023 11:03 AM CST


The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that allowed a negligence lawsuit to proceed against a pipeline company, ruling the state’s workers compensation law bars such litigation.

In a Monday decision, the appeals court determined a trial judge was wrong to permit the continuation of a lawsuit against Precision Pipeline LLC stemming from an April 12, 2019, incident in which employee Mark Weese suffered severe leg injuries while dragging a fuel hose on a construction project in Marshall County, West Virginia.

Mr. Weese received comp benefits but he still filed suit against the company and two individuals alleging negligence and other claims.

The appeals court wrote that the “sweeping immunity” given to West Virginia employers means the suit should have been tossed. 

Mr. Weese argued that one of the defendants in his suit, Vanessa Stromberg, acted as a company EMT, although she was allegedly unqualified to hold that position.

Mr. Weese argued that the company negligently hired Ms. Stromberg, which led to him receiving improper and untimely medical care.

Mr. Weese alleged the defendants failed to take him to a hospital for proper medical care so they could earn “monetary safety bonuses.”

The defendants argued that claims in the suit were an unsupported attempt to circumvent statutory immunity from litigation, since exclusive remedy in workers comp prevents injured workers from suing employers.  

The trial judge allowed the suit to proceed, but the appeals court ruled the defendants are entitled to civil immunity regardless of Mr. Weese’s argument that the company’s alleged negligent hiring and negligent supervision of Ms. Stromberg was not the type of employer negligence covered by the state’s workers comp law.

The appeals court remanded the case to the trial judge for further proceedings.

The issue of workers comp exclusive remedy has been winding its way through the courts recently.