Legal Memorandum: "Exclusive Remedy" Defense in MI

Issue: Under the laws of Michigan, in a workers’ compensation matter, what is the "exclusive remedy" defense?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: "Exclusive remedy" defense; Workers compensation cases
Jurisdiction: Michigan
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: MCL 418.131(1)
Date: 02/01/2001

The so-called "exclusive remedy" defense is available to corporate affiliates of a corporate plaintiff.  An employer’s holding company is entitled to the exclusive remedy immunity if it is the plaintiff’s employer under the economic reality test and if reverse-piercing is warranted.

Michigan’s Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, MCL 418.131, contains an important provision under which "the employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer for a personal injury or occupational disease" is the recovery of worker’s compensation benefits.  MCL 418.131(1).  In a personal injury action, including an action based on injuries allegedly caused by a defective product, a defendant can assert as an affirmative defense that it was the plaintiff’s employer at the time of injury.  Derigiotis v. JM Feighery Co, 185 Mich App 90; 460 NW2d 235 (1990).  The question whether a defendant is an employer under the worker’s compensation law, and is thereby entitled to dismissal based on the defense, is a question of law.  James v. Commercial Carriers, Inc, 230 Mich App 533; 583 NW2d 913, 915 (1998). 


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