Court of Appeals Decision Allows Temporary Employees to Sue Employers Rather Than File Worker’s Comp Claim

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Dist. III, issued a decision (Ehr v. West Bend Mutual Ins. Co.) that significantly altered the Worker’s Compensation Act. The court ruled that the estate of a deceased employee could sue the employee’s temporary employer for an action in tort instead of filing a worker’s compensation claim under the Act.

Specifically, the court ruled that the “exclusive remedy” provision under the Worker’s Compensation Act, “does not bar a temporary employee from bringing tort claims against his or her temporary employer.”  The decision runs counter to how the Act has been interpreted for many years. The exclusive remedy provision provides that an employee may only receive benefits from worker’s compensation for the injury. By ruling that the exclusive remedy did not apply in this case, the employee was able to sue his employer rather than submit a claim under worker’s compensation.

As a result of the decision Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield) introduced AB 884, which would effectively reverse the court’s decision. AB 884 prohibits an injured employee from filing an action in tort against third parties regardless of whether the employee makes a claim for compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act against his or her employer.

The Assembly Committee on Insurance held a public hearing on AB 884 on Feb. 1 and is expected to vote the bill out of committee soon.  The bill is supported by a coalition of business groups, as well as Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

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