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Home Depot dog bite case should have been comp exclusive: State high court

Posted On: Apr. 20, 2023 1:43 PM CST


The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a lower appeals court ruling that denied a bid by The Home Depot Inc. to dismiss a lawsuit initiated by an employee bitten by a customer’s dog on the basis that the matter should fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of workers compensation.

The plaintiff, Lindsay Franczyk, filed for comp benefits after she was injured by the dog bite, but she claims that her supervisors allowed the dog owner and witnesses to leave the store before she was able to gather identifying information to pursue a third-party claim.

Ms. Franczyk, who required surgery, asserted claims of negligence against Home Depot.  

Home Depot sought summary judgment on the assertion that it was immune from suit under the workers comp law, but a trial court denied the motion and on appeal the Pennsylvania Superior Court agreed, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.

The Superior Court agreed with the plaintiff’s view that she was not seeking to recover from the defendant for the dog bite itself, but rather for the economic harm she suffered when she lost the opportunity to file a third-party claim against the dog owner.

In its decision Wednesday overturning the lower courts, the state Supreme Court ruled summary judgment should have been granted to the employer on the basis that the exclusivity provision in the state’s comp law specifically references employer immunity against “any sort of responsibility to the third party in a third-party action.”

The high court determined the case did not breach the threshold required to trigger the very few exceptions to the comp exclusivity rule.