COEMPLOYEE WILLFUL CONDUCT CLAIMS DO NOT ARISE UNDER THE ACT
Willie Jones v. Ray Ruth:
On July 24, 2009, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the Trial Court’s ruling that a settlement agreement barred the plaintiff’s claims against a co-employee for willful conduct pursuant to §25-5-11 (c)(1) & (2). The Court of Appeals held that the release included claims arising under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act but claims made pursuant to §25-5-11 (c)(1) & (2) are tort claims and do not "arise under" the Act. The Court of Appeals stated these claims are premised on different standards of proof and different measures of damages than claims for workers’ compensation benefits. In addition, the Court of Appeals held that a release of "employment status related claims" includes claims for damages arising out of an alteration of, or injury to, the employee’s employment status. This does not include damages arising from personal injury as claims pursuant to §25-5-11 (c) (1) & (2) do.
When preparing a settlement and release, if you wish to exclude claims the employee may have arising out of §25-5-11 (b) & (c) specifically include language referencing the release of any claim the plaintiff/claimant may have pursuant to §25-5-11 (b) & (c).