Hennepin County District Court File No. PI026118
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge,
and Stoneburner, Judge.
Absent evidence that co-employees intended to inflict injury during a workplace battery in the form of a severe "birthday spanking," the worker's compensation act provides the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained during the battery.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge
Affirmed in part, reversed in part; motion denied.
Jeremy Meinstma sued his employer and five co-employees for injuries arising out of an on-the-job "birthday spanking" by the co-employees with a two-by-four fashioned into a long paddle. The employer and co-employees moved for summary judgment based on the exclusivity provisions of the workers' compensation act (the WCA). The district court granted summary judgment to the employer but denied the co-employees' motions for summary judgment, concluding that the intentional nature of battery triggered an exception to the exclusivity provisions of the WCA for injuries intentionally inflicted by co-employees. We affirm summary judgment granted to the employer, but reverse denial of the co-employees' motions for summary judgment because there is no evidence in the record that the co-employees intended to injure Meinstma.
Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc. (Loram) designs and manufactures railway maintenance equipment, and operates a manufacturing facility in Hamel, Minnesota, where many of its products are designed and built by a unionized workforce using heavy equipment.
Jeremy Meinstma and all of the involved co-employees, including Richard Lee Mendez, James Valenta, and Steven Wayne Bachler, were Loram employees and union members. Meinstma had no interaction with any of the involved co-employees outside of work and work-sponsored events. Meinstma had no basis for believing that any of the involved co-employees disliked him or wanted to hurt him.
More than ten years ago, some union employees at Loram established a tradition of spanking fellow union employees on their birthdays. Typically, a small group of union employees would approach and surround the union employee celebrating a birthday, wrestle him to the ground, and hit him on the buttocks, sometimes using a long wooden paddle crafted from a two-by-four. The birthday spankings occurred on Loram property during working hours or immediately thereafter. Loram managers were aware of the birthday spankings and did nothing to stop them. A Loram manager even participated in one birthday spanking.
On a day near his birthday, Meinstma was working on a shift when the involved co-employees grabbed him, wrestled him to the ground, and spanked him with the wooden paddle. During the incident, Meinstma suffered injuries, including a cut on his arm. Following the incident, the co-employees helped Meinstma to his feet and one helped him treat the cut on his arm.
Meinstma sued Loram and the five co-employees involved in the incident, alleging that he suffered back injuries, psychological injuries, and financial damages as a result of the incident. Loram and the co-employees moved for summary judgment, arguing that Meinstma's injuries are covered by the WCA, which provides his exclusive remedy.
The district court granted Loram's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Meinstma's exclusive remedy against Loram is the WCA because his injuries (1) arose out of his employment; (2) do not come within the WCA's "assault exception"; and (3) do not come within the WCA's "intentional-injury-[by-employer] exception."
The district court denied the co-employees' motions for summary judgment, concluding that because Meinstma's primary claim against the co-employees is for battery, an intentional tort, the exception to WCA exclusivity for injuries intentionally caused by co-employees applies.
By order, we have limited these consolidated appeals to the interpretation of the exclusive remedies provisions of the WCA and relevant exceptions. Meintsma challenges the final partial judgment dismissing his claims against Loram, arguing that (1) his injuries did not arise out of employment within the meaning of the WCA; (2) the assault was "personal," taking his injuries out of the WCA definition of compensable injuries; and (3) Loram's conduct comes under the intentional-act-by-employer exception to the WCA. Co-employees Valenta, Mendez and Bachler challenge the denial of their motion to dismiss Meintsma's claims against them for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the WCA provides the exclusive remedy, because there is no evidence of intent to injure. Meintsma has also moved to strike portions of the appendix submitted by Mendez and Bachler.
Did the district court err in concluding that the Workers Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for Meinstma's claims against his employer for injuries arising out of a workplace battery?
Did the district court err in concluding that it has jurisdiction over Meinstma's claims against co-employees for injuries arising out of a workplace battery because the intentional nature of battery constitutes an ...