Workers’ Compensation “Power Press Exception” Does Not Authorize Loss of Consortium Claim

   An employee, and his or her dependents, injured in the course and scope of employment is generally limited to workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy for satisfaction of claims against the employer. There are, however, limited statutory exceptions that allow an injured worker to augment workers’ compensation benefits by bringing an action at law for damages against the employer.

   One exception is Labor Code section 4558, the “power press exception”, which authorizes an injured worker to bring a civil action for tort damages against his or her employer where the injuries were caused by the employer’s removal of, or failure to install, an operation guard on a power press where the manufacturer designed, installed, and required a guard.

   Does the power press exception operate to allow an injured workers’ spouse to file an action at law against the employer for loss of consortium? The California Supreme Court, in LeFiell Mfg. Co. v. Superior Court, has answered the question: “No.” Under settled principles of workers’ compensation law, the exclusivity rule bars a dependent spouse’s claim for loss of consortium.

First Circuit Follows Second re Loss of Consortium Claims

   I recently posted here that the Second Circuit held that for a loss of consortium claim related to an asbestos related injury, the claimant need only be married to the injured party when the disease is diagnosed. The First Circuit has followed suit in Leonard v. John Crane, Inc. The court made this additional observation in Leonard, because Leonard’s husband, John, and voluntarily dismissed his personal injury claim against Crane:

John’s dismissal of his cause of action against Crane has no impact on Sandra’s ability to pursue her loss of consortium claim.  They are separate causes of action. John’s dismissal was in any event without prejudice, and can have no arguable res judicata or collateral estoppel effect on Sandra’s loss of consortium claim.

Loss of Consortium Damages Available If Married When Disease Diagnosed

   In California, a spouse is permitted damages for loss of consortium for the personal injury or death of a spouse. The recovery for loss of consortium is limited to married couples.  Individuals in relationships, boyfriends and girlfriends, or even couples who are engaged but not married, are not entitled to such damages. Continue reading