Smith v. EllisAnnotate this Case
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether an employee who filed an injury claim against his employer under the State Workers' Compensation Act and receives compensation in exchange for a "no liability" settlement with his employer that is approved by the State Board of Workers' Compensation may then turn around and sue the co-employee who caused the injury in a tort action. Ten years ago, the Court of Appeals answered this question no, holding that the Act's exclusive remedy provision bars such a lawsuit based on the same injury for which the employee has already received a remedy. In this appeal, however, the Court of Appeals was equally divided as to whether the underlying case law should be overruled, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for resolution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that "Ridley" was correctly decided. Thus, appellant Joseph Smith, having previously entered a Board-approved settlement with his employer in exchange for compensation, would be barred from suing appellee John Ellis for the same injury in tort if Ellis qualified as an "employee of the same employer" as Smith, rather than a "third-party tort-feasor," as those phrases are used in the applicable statutory authority. However, the evidence did not establish that Ellis was acting as "an employee of the same employer" in the course of his employment, at the time he injured Smith. The trial court therefore erred in granting summary judgment to Ellis, and that judgment was reversed.