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Home / Courts / Workers’ Compensation – Subrogation Lien – Tenn. Employer – Third-Party Tortfeasor – N.C. Settlement – Choice of Law

Workers’ Compensation – Subrogation Lien – Tenn. Employer – Third-Party Tortfeasor – N.C. Settlement – Choice of Law

Cook v. Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc. (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-07-0063, 8 pp.) (Wanda G. Bryant, J.) Appealed from Guilford County Superior Court. (Ralph Walker, J.) N.C. App. Click here for the full text of the opinion.

Holding: After a Tennessee employee was injured on the job while he was in North Carolina, he and his Tenn. employer settled his workers’ compensation claim in Tennessee. Although Tenn. law grants an employer full subrogation when an injured worker receives damages from a third-party tortfeasor, since the employee sued the third-party tortfeasor in North Carolina, N.C. law applies to the subrogation issue. N.C. law allows our courts to reduce or eliminate a workers’ compensation lien, as the trial judge did in this case.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it eliminated the Tenn. employer’s workers’ compensation subrogation lien.

Under Tenn. law, the legislative intent is to reimburse an employer for payments made under a workmen’s compensation award from the net recovery obtained by the employee or those to whom his right of action survives, to the extent of employer’s total obligation under the compensation act.

However, the law governing remedies is procedural in nature; hence, the law of the forum in which the remedy is sought will control. Where a lien is intended to protect the interests of those who supply the benefit of assurance that any work-related injury will be compensated, it is remedial in nature. A statute that provides a remedial benefit must be construed broadly in the light of the evils sought to be eliminated, the remedies intended to be applied, and the objective to be attained.

Tenn. public policy, as codified in its workers’ compensation statutes, does not preclude an employee who receives workers’ compensation benefits from pursuing negligence claims against third-party tortfeasors, and it allows employers to file a subrogation lien against any recovery. Here, the workers’ comp carrier was not denied the right to file a lien in North Carolina.

Remedial rights are determined by the law of the forum. In this case, the forum is North Carolina.

We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s elimination of defendant’s workers’ compensation lien.


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