Today the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District released its much-anticipated decision in the case of Hansen v. Ritter and Snyder, holding that co-employees cannot be liable merely for failing to provide fellow employees with a safe workplace.
Spencer Fane obtained the favorable circuit court ruling as well as this appellate decision affirming the lower court. Spencer Fane attorneys Kelly Campbell, Barry Pickens, Nick Badgerow and Lindsay Todd Perkins represented the employer.
The case stemmed from a tragic workplace accident that resulted in the death of an employee at a factory in Sedalia, Missouri. The mother of the deceased employee filed a lawsuit against two supervisors at the company alleging that they had failed to provide her son a reasonably safe place to work.
The mother relied on the Court of Appeals’ 2010 opinion in Robinson v. Hooker, 323 S.W.3d 418 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010), which held that co-employees have no immunity under the Workers’ Compensation Act for fellow employees’ work place injuries and death.
While the court in Hansen re-affirmed its decision in Robinson v. Hooker, it held that where a plaintiff only alleges that a co-employee defendant failed to provide a safe workplace – what has always been deemed a “non-delegable duty” of the employer – the plaintiff has not stated an actionable claim for negligence.
The Court’s decision substantially limits the impact of Robinson v. Hooker, now assuring co-employees that they cannot be liable merely for carrying out the duties of the employer to provide a safe place to work, which includes providing safe equipment; warning employees about the existence of dangers of which the employees could not reasonably be expected to be aware; providing a sufficient number of competent fellow employees; and making and enforcing safety rules. And of course, employers will continue to enjoy immunity under the Workers’ Compensation Act for the injuries of their employees.
Today’s important decision is available here.