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Exclusivity Provision of Workers’ Compensation Act Does Not Preclude Civil Recovery For Non-Work-Related Injuries
Schneider Electric USA, Inc. f/k/a Square D v. Williams, et. al. (2022-CA-0190-MR) KY Court of Appeals 7/7/2023, not final
Plaintiff was six years old when adopted by Ken Baxter in 1967. Plaintiff lived with Baxter until the mid-1980s and during that time Baxter worked for Square D who manufactured plastic electrical parts from molding compounds, some of which contained asbestos until around 1974. Plaintiff also worked for Square D for a few months in 1978. Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016 and died a year later. Prior to her death she filed suit against Square D claiming she was exposed to asbestos from her father’s contaminated work clothes and directly during her brief employment in 1978. During discovery, all of the medical and expert proof attributed her mesothelioma to asbestos from her father’s work clothes. Square D moved for summary judgment based partly on the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court denied summary judgment. Square-D argues the trial court wrongly concluded Plaintiff’s claims were not barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s refusal to dismiss claims against Square D based on workers’ compensation exclusivity. It reasoned that there was no evidence that Plaintiff was exposed to asbestos during her brief time working at Square D. The Court also agreed with the trial court that a jury is capable of apportioning work-related and non-work-related injuries, if appropriate. The Court further determined that allowing Plaintiff’s brief summer employment with Square D to immunize Square D against all repercussions from other-than-workplace asbestos exposure would result in an unfair windfall for Square D.
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