Exclusive remedy upheld in Lockheed Martin shooting case

July 21st, 2005 by

Over today’s wires comes the news that a federal appeals court has just upheld workers compensation as the exclusive remedy for the nine surviving victims and the families of the six workers who were killed in the 2003 Lockheed Martin shooting in Meridien, Mississippi. According to the news report, this would limit damages to about $150,000. The Picayune Times has a longer story detailing the appeal a few weeks before the judgment.
Exclusive remedy is a strong concept that holds up under repeated legal challenges. Workers comp is no fault by its very nature, a quid pro quo arrangement in which employers agree to provide medical and wage replacement to injured workers, and in turn, this becomes the sole remedy. In all but the most unusual circumstances, employees lose the right to sue their employer for work-related injuries. Sometimes this seems unfair to a worker because benefits are paltry when stacked side by side with enormous awards from civil litigation. But when legal challenges succeed, they weaken the system’s underpinnings. Workers comp is essentially a safety net, a system designed to provide the best for the most, not to provide individual redress for every wrong.
When litigation is successful at piercing the exclusive remedy shield, it often involves employer misconduct that is highly egregious. If an employer can be demonstrated to have intentionally caused an injury or to have intentionally defrauded an employee in some way, those actions might be sufficient grounds for a suit. But the standard of proof for such challenges is quite high