NY: Co-employee Immunity Bars Exercise Rider’s Suit For Crushed Foot From Falling Anvil

A civil action filed by one equestrian exercise rider against another for injuries sustained when an anvil owned by the defendant fell from defendant’s vehicle and crushed plaintiff’s foot is barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the New York Workers’ Compensation Law, held a state appellate court [see Correa v. Anderson, 2014 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8056 (Nov. 20, 2014)]. The court was unconvinced by plaintiff’s argument that her action was viable because defendant had no work-related reason for storing the anvil in his vehicle and that he was not “acting within the scope of his employment” when he placed it there.

The court noted that plaintiff had exercised several horses on the day in question and that she asked her coworkers if anyone had a hat she could borrow, that she had become hot and sweaty while exercising the horses, then became chilled afterwards. Defendant told plaintiff he had several hats in the rear cargo area of his SUV and handed her the keys. Although the two disagreed as to whether defendant warned plaintiff not to open the tailgate of the vehicle, plaintiff did so and was seriously injured when an anvil fell out of the cargo area and crushed her right foot.

The court concluded that defendant’s action of offering to lend an uncomfortable coworker a hat had “some advantage to the employer, even though slight.” The act could not be regarded as purely personal and wholly unrelated to his employment. The court concluded that notwithstanding the lack of any connection between the anvil and defendant’s employment, he was “acting within the scope of his employment” when he lent plaintiff the hat—and allegedly committed a tortious act by failing to warn plaintiff that objects may fall if she opened the tailgate—so as to trigger the exclusivity provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

This entry was posted in Case comment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.