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Tort/Negligence — IIED – Workers’ Compensation – Ancillary Claims – Exclusive Jurisdiction

Bowden v. Young (Lawyers Weekly No. 15-07-0152, 11 pp.) (Richard Dietz, J.) (Chris Dillon, J., concurring) Appealed from Wilson County Superior Court (Quentin Sumner, J.) N.C. App.

Holding: Even though intentional torts generally fall outside the scope of the Workers’ Compensation Act, since plaintiff claims that defendants mishandled his workers’ compensation claim, these claims are ancillary to plaintiff’s original compensable injury; consequently, the Industrial Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over these intentional tort claims.

We reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss filed by the defendant-carrier.

According to Johnson v. First Union Corp., 131 N.C. App. 142, 504 S.E.2d 808 (1998), and Deem v. Treadaway & Sons Painting & Wallcovering, Inc., 142 N.C. App. 472, 543 S.E.2d 209 (2001), all claims arising from an employer’s or insurer’s processing and handling of a workers’ compensation claim fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission, regardless of whether the alleged conduct was intentional or merely negligent.

Here, all of plaintiff’s factual allegations against the workers’ compensation carrier involve the carrier’s handling of his worker’s compensation claim. He alleges that the carrier wrongly sought a second opinion from “a professional witness for the defense”; that the carrier denied some of his requests for medical treatment via “form letter”; that the carrier contacted his doctors without his permission; that the carrier’s representatives were rude and aggressive with him during phone calls; that the carrier improperly filed paperwork to suspend his compensation; and that the carrier “insisted that [plaintiff] needed to settle his Workers Compensation claim.”

Every allegation supporting plaintiff’s tort claims against the carrier arises out of the carrier’s processing and handling of his workers’ compensation claim. Accordingly, those claims fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission.

Reversed.

Concurrence

(Dillon, J.) Where a carrier intentionally engages in misconduct knowing it is substantially certain to cause serious injury to death, and where that conduct causes injury, an employee can pursue a civil action against the carrier. However, this exception, based on Woodson v. Rowland, 329 N.C. 330, 407 S.E.2d 222 (1991), is extremely narrow.

In any event, plaintiff has not set forth allegations which rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct necessary to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.


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