Glenn v. Farmland Foods, Inc., 83-451

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by REYNOLDSON; REYNOLDSON
Citation344 N.W.2d 240
PartiesAaron M. GLENN, Appellant, v. FARMLAND FOODS, INC., A Corporation, and Steve Tierney, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 83-451,83-451
Decision Date15 February 1984

Page 240

344 N.W.2d 240
Aaron M. GLENN, Appellant,
FARMLAND FOODS, INC., A Corporation, and Steve Tierney, Appellees.
No. 83-451.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Feb. 15, 1984.

Page 241

MacDonald Smith and LeRoy J. Sturgeon of Smith & Smith, Sioux City, for appellant.

F. David Eastman of Law Offices of Walter C. Schroeder, Mason City, for appellee Farmland Foods, Inc.

Philip S. Deats and Thomas C. Whitesell of Whitesell Law Firm, Iowa Falls, for appellee Steve Tierney.


REYNOLDSON, Chief Justice.

Plaintiff, Aaron M. Glenn, brought this tort action against his employer and a co-employee, alleging their "gross negligence amounting to wanton neglect" caused a work-related injury. Trial court, dismissing count I of plaintiff's petition, against his employer, found it had no subject matter jurisdiction. The court dismissed count II of plaintiff's petition, against the co-employee, pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 215.1. We affirm.

August 11, 1980, plaintiff Glenn filed a petition in district court seeking damages from his employer, Farmland Foods, Inc., and from a supervisory co-employee, Steve Tierney. The petition alleged defendant Tierney knowingly ordered plaintiff to do work that aggravated an already existing back injury. Plaintiff sought both actual and punitive damages from each defendant.

The employer filed a responsive pleading denominated "ANSWER OF FARMLAND FOODS, INC." Although it began "COMES NOW, Farmland Foods, Inc., ... and for separate answer to the Petition filed by the Plaintiff states," it was signed "WALTER C. SCHROEDER, ATTORNEY FOR THE DEFENDANTS." (Emphasis added.) As noted in division II, below, plaintiff's attorney incorrectly assumed from this signature that defendant Tierney had been served and was appearing in the case.

In its answer, Farmland pleaded the exclusive jurisdiction of the industrial commissioner over employees' actions seeking redress for work-related injuries. The district court agreed and dismissed Farmland from the case on July 6, 1981. That dismissal

Page 242

forms the first ground for plaintiff's appeal.

I. Iowa Code section 85.20 makes the injured employee's right to workers' compensation his exclusive remedy against his employer. It states in pertinent part as follows:

85.20. Rights of employee exclusive. The rights and remedies provided in this chapter, ... for an employee on account of injury, ... for which benefits under this chapter ... are recoverable, shall be the exclusive and only rights and remedies of such employee, the employee's personal or legal representatives, dependents, or next of kin, at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, ... against:

1. his or her employer; or

2. any other employee of such employer, provided that such injury, ... arises out of and in the course of such employment and is not caused by the other employee's gross negligence amounting to such lack of care as to amount to wanton neglect for the safety of another.

(Emphasis added.)

This remedy limitation is buttressed by Code section 85.3, which requires "every employer, ... [to] provide, secure, and pay compensation" and in return relieves each employer "from other liability for recovery of damages or other compensation."

We consistently have interpreted these sections as prohibiting an employee from suing his or her employer for damages. See Steffens v. Proehl, 171 N.W.2d 297, 300 (Iowa 1969); Jansen v. Harmon, 164 N.W.2d 323, 326 (Iowa 1969); Fabricius v. Montgomery Elevator Co., 254 Iowa 1319, 1321, 121 N.W.2d 361, 362 (1963); Bradshaw v. Iowa Methodist Hospital, 251 Iowa 375, 387, 101 N.W.2d 167, 174 (1960).

Plaintiff, however, contends these cases were nullified by a 1974 amendment to the workers' compensation law. We disagree. The 1974 amendment acted primarily to define the status of co-employees, making them statutorily immune from suit except in cases of "gross negligence." See 1974 Iowa Acts ch. 1111. The statutory immunity remained unchanged for employers; the amendment created no new cause of action against the employer flowing from an allegation of co-employee gross negligence. Our interpretation is supported both by the language of the present statute and by its legislative history. When introduced, the legislation was designated "AN ACT to provide that the right to workmen's compensation shall be the exclusive remedy to an employee against his employer or fellow employee." Id. The floor amendment allowing suit against a grossly negligent co-employee said nothing about lifting the employer's immunity in such situations. In Larimer v. Raque Manufacturing Co., 498 F.Supp. 37, 38 (S.D.Iowa 1980), a federal case arising well after the 1974 amendments, the court described Iowa's law thusly:

By statute and case law, jurisdiction of the subject matter of cases between employers and employees for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment is exclusively in the Industrial Commission, and the District Court has no jurisdiction of the subject matter of such cases.... Thus, coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act provides a special defense to the...

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17 cases
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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 17 d3 Outubro d3 1984
    ...Iowa Code section 85.20, clearly and plainly bar a plaintiff's tort suit against his employer. Glenn v. Farmland Foods, Inc., 344 N.W.2d 240, 243 (Iowa 1984); see also Harned v. Farmland Foods, Inc., 331 N.W.2d 98, 99-100 (Iowa 1983). We recently [A] member of a partnership is an employer o......
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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 25 d3 Março d3 1998
    ...compensation is the employee's exclusive remedy against the employer. Iowa Code §§ 85.3(1), 85.20 (1993); Glenn v. Farmland Foods, Inc., 344 N.W.2d 240, 242 (Iowa 1984). Christine does not dispute this. Nor does she dispute that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over clai......
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