Workers’ compensation provides a nice remedy for people who suffer injuries on the job, regardless of fault. The downside is that if you have a serious or fatal accident that is the fault of your employer, your recovery is limited and does not – by any definition – make you whole.
One backdoor around the exclusivity of the workers’ compensation states in many states, like Florida or Texas, for example, is if the employer is grossly negligent, they can be a claim for negligence.
In Vermont, a Chayer v. Ethan Allen, the plaintiff was employed at Ethan Allen’s furniture manufacturing plant in Orleans, Vermont. Plaintiff worked on a double-end tenoning machine which is essentially a conveyor belt on which furniture rests as they move forward between the machine’s saw blades. Plaintiff inadvertently placed his hand on the belt and his hand caught in a “pinch point” and was pulled into the blades which cut off his hand. He had tried to turn off the machine’s shutoff switch but could not do so. Plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer claimed that Ethan Allen knew and discussed this very risk and did not take the necessary precautions. Specifically, Ethan Allen knew that the switches, including the shutoff switch which was critical in this case, were located in such a way as to pose a danger.