Griffin v. Futorian Corp.

Decision Date26 October 1988
Docket NumberNo. 58023,58023
Citation533 So.2d 461
PartiesJames S. GRIFFIN v. FUTORIAN CORPORATION, a/k/a Mohasco Upholstered Furniture Corporation and George Faulk.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Lindsey C. Meador, Jacobs, Eddins, Povall, Meador & Crump, Cleveland, for appellant.

S.T. Rayburn, Sumners, Hickman & Rayburn, Oxford, for appellees.

Before ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J., and SULLIVAN and ZUCCARO, JJ.

ROY NOBLE LEE, Chief Justice, for the Court:

James S. Griffin instituted suit in the Circuit Court of Webster County, Mississippi, against his employer, Futorian Corporation, a/k/a Mohasco Upholstered Furniture Corporation, and George Faulk, its manager, for personal injuries sustained while in the scope of his employment with Futorian. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Futorian and Faulk, and Griffin has appealed to this Court, assigning four (4) errors in the trial below. We affirm.

Facts

Futorian was engaged in the manufacture of upholstered furniture in its plant located in Eupora, Mississippi. Appellant had been employed by Futorian for over twenty (20) years as a machine operator. On February 8, 1983, appellant was operating a large lumber sawing machine in the plant, and he slipped on an accumulation of sawdust located beneath the machine (saw) which severed most of his right hand and mangled his right arm. He was pulled into and against the safety cut-off switch, but was unable to deactivate or cut off the switch and stop the machine. Appellant filed for workers' compensation benefits and, on February 15, 1984, a lump-sum settlement was made and approved as a result of the injury. After a period of several months' recuperation, appellant returned to work at the Futorian plant and worked at the same sawing machine, which machine had been fitted with a new safety cut-off switch and with better hoods to remove the sawdust. On September 2, 1983, appellant again slipped on the sawdust, fell into the saw, and sustained injuries to his left hand, i.e., most of the left thumb and first two fingers on the left hand were cut off. On November 29, 1984, appellant again was granted compensation for the injury to his left hand.

On September 18, 1985, more than two (2) years after the second injury, appellant filed a tort action against Futorian Corporation and George Faulk, Corporate Manager, in the Circuit Court of Webster County, Mississippi, for personal injuries sustained as a result of the accidents on February 8, 1983, and September 2, 1983.

I.

THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN RULING THAT APPELLANT'S CAUSE OF ACTION IS BARRED BY THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION ACT.

We address only the first assigned error since it is dispositive of the case.

The accidents which resulted in injuries to appellant became common shortly after the turn of the century when sawmills moved into the State of Mississippi, or were newly organized here for the purpose of cutting the virgin pine and hardwood forests of Mississippi. Workers fell into open saws or were pulled into them by belts or knocked into them from the carriage. Their hands, arms and legs were cut off and many lost their lives. For a period of approximately forty (40) years until the Workers' Compensation Law was enacted in 1948, the principal personal injury litigation in Mississippi resulted from those accidents. Master and servant law controlled and dominated the litigation. Issues on negligence such as the Safe Place to Work Doctrine, the Safe Appliance Doctrine (tools and machinery), adequate number of workmen, methods of work, rules and orders, etc. were submitted to juries.

With the passage of the Workers' Compensation Act, tort actions involving master and servant law were barred by the exclusive remedy of the act. Some states have amended their workers' compensation acts to make exceptions to the exclusive remedy. Mississippi's act has not been amended in that respect since its passage. The appellant urges this Court to recognize that the injuries sustained by him constitute a new tort outside the exclusivity rule of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Law, i.e., Mississippi Code Annotated Sec. 71-3-1 (Supp.1988). However, the complaint reads like a standard declaration in the old Master and Servant cases. It charges that the appellant slipped and fell and was pulled into the saw. Parts of the complaint follow:

Count I.

(1) That for a very long period of time after the first injury Mr. Griffin had complained to the plant manager, George Faulk, that the sawing machine was in an extremely dangerous and unsafe condition.

(2) That the original safety cutoff switch had been placed by one much harder to operate.

(3) That Mr. Griffin had repeatedly warned Faulk and others that the safety switch was unsafe and that the removal of venthoods was allowing sawdust to accumulate in unsafe amounts.

(4) That the defendants willfully, consciously and intentionally ordered him to continue working in and around those dangerous conditions which were substantially certain to cause grevious and horrible injuries.

(5) That as a direct and proximate result of the willful, conscious and intentional failure to remedy the situation, Mr. Griffin was horribly injured.

Count II.

(6) Upon returning to work and sometime later he was sent back to the same machine.

(7) Mr. Griffin was given an increased workload despite his handicapped condition.

(8) The previous trusted and experienced helper Mr. Griffin had was replaced by an inexperienced and incapable helper.

(9) That because of these actions, Mr. Griffin was once again injured by the same machine.

Appellant cites McCain v. Northwestern National Ins. Co., 484 So.2d 1001 (Miss.1986); Luckett v. Mississippi Wood, Inc., 481 So.2d 288 (Miss.1985); and Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co. v. Holland, 469 So.2d 55 (Miss.1984); to the effect that this Court has already stated an exception to the exclusivity rule in bad faith refusal to pay claims. Those cases are distinguished from the case at bar because they involve the wrongful refusal to pay claims, not an intentional act that resulted in a...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
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    ...the furtherance of the employer's business, and (2) the injury must be one that is not compensable under the [MWCL].Griffin v. Futorian Corp., 533 So.2d 461, 463 (Miss.1988) (citing Miller v. McRae's Inc., 444 So.2d 368, 371–72 (Miss.1984)). The MWCL bars claims that an employer's conduct w......
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    ...the furtherance of the employer's business; and (2) The injury must be one that is not compensable under the Act. Griffin v. Futorian Corp., 533 So.2d 461, 463 (Miss.1988) (citing Miller, 444 So.2d at ¶ 5. Many states which have enacted statutory exclusivity provisions which allow civil cla......
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