Legal Memorandum: Claim Preempted by Workers Compensation Act

Issue: When is a claim at law preempted by the Workers Compensation Act?

Area of Law: Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: Workers Compensation Act; Claim at law
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 428 F. Supp. 79; 155 F. Supp. 2d 376; 501 A.2d 505; 369 F.3d 227; 865 F.2d 68; 94 F.3d 111
Cited Statutes: 24 V.I.C. § 251(a) (1981); 5 U.S.C. § 8101; WCA § 284(a)
Date: 05/01/2007

According to the district court in Robinson v. Hess Oil V.I. Corp., 1982 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18353 (D.V.I. May 3, 1982), “[t]he preliminary test of whether the exclusive remedies of workmen’s compensation apply is whether the injuries complained of fit within the definition of ‘injury’ set forth in the statute.”  Id. at *3 (citing 24 V.I.C. § 251(a) (1981)).  Claims such as “reckless infliction of emotional distress” are not “the type of injuries covered by the Virgin Islands workmen’s compensation scheme.”  Id. at *3-*4 (citing  Sullivan v. United States, 428 F. Supp. 79, 81 (E.D. Wis. 1977) (types of injuries covered by and subject to the exclusive remedy provision of federal employees compensation act, 5 U.S.C. § 8101, do not include claims for injury by discrimination, mental distress or loss of employment)).

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Chinnery v. Government of Virgin Islands, 865 F.2d 68, 72 (3d Cir. 1989), pointed out that when the conduct of an employer is “so egregious as to exceed the bounds of negligence and constitute . . . intentional wrongdoing,” the intentional tort “comprise[s] an exception to the exclusive remedy provision of WCA § 284(a).”  Similarly, in Eddy v. V.I. Water & Power Auth., 369 F.3d 227 (3d Cir. 2004), the court of appeals made clear that intentional torts are not preempted by the Virgin Islands Workers Compensation Act.  Accord Subbe-Hirt v. Baccigalupi, 94 F.3d 111, 113 (3d Cir. 1996) (holding that the district court did not […]

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