Jones v. Martin Electronics, Inc., No. SC04-1538.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation932 So.2d 1100
Docket NumberNo. SC04-1538.
Decision Date15 June 2006
PartiesCurtis JONES, et ux., Petitioners, v. MARTIN ELECTRONICS, INC., Respondent.
932 So.2d 1100
Curtis JONES, et ux., Petitioners,
v.
MARTIN ELECTRONICS, INC., Respondent.
No. SC04-1538.
Supreme Court of Florida.
June 15, 2006.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Thomas M. Ervin, Jr. of Ervin, Chapman and Ervin, David H. Burns, Robert Scott Cox and Talley Kaleko of Cox and Burns, P.A., and Benjamin L. Crump of Parks and Crump, LLC, Tallahassee, FL, for Petitioners.

Fred M. Johnson of Fuller, Johnson and Farrell, P.A., Tallahassee, FL, for Respondent.

Andrew L. Patten of Sponsler, Bennett, Jacobs and Cristal, P.A., Tampa, FL, on behalf of Florida Defense Lawyers Association, for Amicus Curiae.

PER CURIAM.


We have for review a decision of a district court of appeal on the following question, which the court certified to be of great public importance:

MAY AN EMPLOYEE RECEIVING WORKERS' COMPENSATION BENEFITS LITIGATE ENTITLEMENT TO ADDITIONAL BENEFITS THEN, HAVING OBTAINED AN AWARD OF THE ADDITIONAL WORKERS' COMPENSATION BENEFITS, BRING SUIT IN CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE PERSONAL INJURIES SUSTAINED ON THE JOB THAT WERE THE BASIS FOR THE AWARD?

Martin Elecs., Inc. v. Jones, 877 So.2d 765, 769 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. We rephrase the certified question to address the factors presented more specifically as follows:

IS AN EMPLOYEE WHO IS ENTITLED TO AND HAS RECEIVED WORKERS' COMPENSATION BENEFITS

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FOR A WORKPLACE INJURY BUT HAS NOT PURSUED THE COMPENSATION CASE TO A CONCLUSION ON THE MERITS ESTOPPED FROM LATER FILING A SEPARATE CIVIL ACTION AGAINST THE EMPLOYER IN CIRCUIT COURT FOR TORT DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE SAME WORKPLACE INJURY IF THE EMPLOYER'S CONDUCT THAT CAUSED THE WORKPLACE INJURY RISES TO THE LEVEL OF INTENTIONAL CONDUCT SUBSTANTIALLY CERTAIN TO RESULT IN INJURY FOR WHICH THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY DOCTRINE IS NOT AVAILABLE?

For the reasons that follow, we answer the rephrased question in the negative.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts of the underlying action were detailed in the district court's opinion below. The essential facts are not in dispute. On May 1, 2000, while working for Martin Electronics, Mr. Jones suffered third-degree burns over three-fifths of his body's surface when an explosion occurred in a building on Martin Electronics' premises. See Martin Elecs., 877 So.2d at 767. Mr. Jones did not regain consciousness until July 11, 2000. See id. He endured twenty-four surgeries and all of his fingers and both thumbs were amputated. See id. From the beginning, Martin Electronics and its workers' compensation carrier voluntarily provided workers' compensation benefits. See id. A dispute between the parties arose concerning only the hourly rate for attendant care that Mrs. Jones furnished. See id. Mr. Jones filed a petition to alter this attendant care benefit with the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims in February of 2001. See id. Prior to a contested hearing on the petition, the parties completed a preprinted standard form stipulation by answering questions with regard to the incident. See id. On this form, Mr. Jones circled "yes" in response to the statement "accident or occupational disease accepted as compensable." See id. On January 29, 2003, the judge of compensation claims entered an order granting the petition, approving and adopting as a finding of fact the parties' stipulation to the effect that Mr. Jones sustained a compensable injury and awarding additional monies for Mrs. Jones's attendant services. See id. With a modification not pertinent to the instant matter, the First District affirmed the modification of additional attendant care benefits. See Martin Elecs. v. Jones, 871 So.2d 277 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004).

While receiving these compensation benefits, Curtis and Annie Jones ("the Joneses") filed the complaint in circuit court in the present case on January 7, 2003, seeking damages in tort. As amended on March 18, 2003, the complaint alleged in pertinent part:

7. At the time of his injuries, CURTIS JONES was an employee of MARTIN and was in the course and scope of his employment with MARTIN.

8. While MARTIN did not have an actual intent to injure CURTIS JONES, the injuries to CURTIS JONES were the result of intentional conduct on the part of MARTIN that was substantially certain to result in injury or death.

Martin Elecs., 877 So.2d at 767. Martin Electronics moved for summary judgment on the basis that Mr. Jones had elected the workers' compensation system as his remedy for the injuries alleged in this civil lawsuit, and, therefore, as a matter of law was precluded from recovering damages from Martin Electronics in a civil action. See id. at 767-68. The circuit court denied Martin Electronics' motion for summary

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judgment, ruling that Mr. Jones was entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits and also pursue the tort action against Martin Electronics under the allegations presented. See id. at 766. The trial court reasoned that Martin Electronics was not entitled to workers' compensation immunity if the facts alleged in the complaint were established. See id.

Martin Electronics sought review in the First District of the trial court's order which determined that it was not entitled to immunity. See id. Martin Electronics asserted on appeal that Mr. Jones had elected the workers' compensation remedy by actively pursuing the workers' compensation claim to a conclusion on the merits, and, therefore, the Joneses were judicially estopped from pursuing the intentional tort claim. See id. at 768.

In its opinion, the First District held that Mr. Jones had elected his remedy under the workers' compensation statutory scheme, reasoning that

filing a petition for additional attendant care benefits, litigating before the judge of compensation claims on the theory that a covered industrial accident occurred, and obtaining an order predicated on the finding that Mr. Jones sustained an injury by accident "implie[d] a conscious intent . . . to choose compensation benefits over a tort action."

Id. (quoting Velez v. Oxford Dev. Co., 457 So.2d 1388, 1390 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984)). Ultimately, the district court reversed the trial court's order denying Martin Electronics' motion for summary judgment and remanded the case for entry of a summary final judgment in favor of Martin Electronics. See Martin Elecs., 877 So.2d at 768. The district court also certified the question currently before this Court as one of great public importance. See id. at 769.

Review of the First District's decision is sought here, which we have granted. See Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 894 So.2d 970 (Fla.2005) (table).

ANALYSIS
Workers' Compensation Immunity

Florida's workers' compensation system was designed, intended, and contemplated for workplace injuries that have occurred in the course and scope of employment. The workers' compensation system seeks to balance competing interests and provide tradeoffs between employees and employers. Specifically, the workers' compensation system provides employees limited medical and wage loss benefits, without regard to fault, for losses resulting from workplace injuries in exchange for the employee relinquishing his or her right to seek certain common law remedies from the employer for those injuries under certain circumstances.

On the date Mr. Jones was injured, section 440.11(1) of the Florida Statutes (2000), provided, "The liability of an employer prescribed in s[ection] 440.10 shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer . . . to the employee . . . ." § 440.11(1), Fla. Stat. (2000). This provision provides the employer immunity from liability for an employer's negligence that has caused the employee's workplace injury. See Aguilera v. Inservices, Inc., 905 So.2d 84, 90-91 (Fla.2005). Notwithstanding the tradeoffs provided, we have established and continue to hold that an employer's immunity under the workers' compensation system does not extend to workplace injuries caused by conduct of the employer so egregious that it is tantamount to an intentional tort. See id. at 90 ("The workers' compensation system limits liability only for negligent workplace conduct which produces workplace injury, but does not extend to immunize intentional tortious conduct.") (citing Turner

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v. PCR, Inc., 754 So.2d 683, 687 (Fla. 2000) ("[W]e reaffirm our prior decisions recognizing, as have our district courts and many jurisdictions around the country, that workers' compensation law does not protect an employer from liability for an intentional tort against an employee.")). However, an employee is not precluded from filing an action against his or her employer for intentional conduct substantially certain to result in injury simply because some workers' compensation benefits have been paid. See Wishart v. Laidlaw Tree...

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22 practice notes
  • Helf v. Chevron, No. 20130700.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • September 4, 2015
    ...W. Va.Code§ 23–4–2(c).9 Gourley v. Crossett Pub. Sch.,333 Ark. 178, 968 S.W.2d 56, 58 (1998); Jones v. Martin Electronics, Inc.,932 So.2d 1100, 1106–07 (Fla.2006); Collier v. Wagner Castings Co.,81 Ill.2d 229, 41 Ill.Dec. 776, 408 N.E.2d 198, 204 (1980); Advanced Countertop Design, Inc. v. ......
  • Vallejos v. Lan Cargo S.A., No. 3D12–1259.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 19, 2013
    ...for the employee relinquishing his or her right to seek certain common law remedies from the employer....Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d 1100, 1104 (Fla.2006) (emphasis added). “Where an injury is suffered in the course and scope of employment, worker's compensation is the exclusive......
  • Silberberg v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sch. Bd., 1D20-75
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 16, 2022
    ...into the work-causation analysis would be to impermissibly inject fault into the equation. See Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc. , 932 So. 2d 1100, 1104 (Fla. 2006) (explaining that "the workers' compensation system provides employees limited medical and wage loss benefits, without regard to fau......
  • Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co., No. 12–11755.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • April 15, 2013
    ...immunize an employer from suit when: (1) the employer's intentional tort causes the employee's injury, see Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d 1100, 1104–05 (Fla.2006); Fla. Stat. § 440.11(1)(b)(1); or (2) the employer's conduct is “substantially certain” to injure the employee, Eller, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Helf v. Chevron, No. 20130700.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • September 4, 2015
    ...W. Va.Code§ 23–4–2(c).9 Gourley v. Crossett Pub. Sch.,333 Ark. 178, 968 S.W.2d 56, 58 (1998); Jones v. Martin Electronics, Inc.,932 So.2d 1100, 1106–07 (Fla.2006); Collier v. Wagner Castings Co.,81 Ill.2d 229, 41 Ill.Dec. 776, 408 N.E.2d 198, 204 (1980); Advanced Countertop Design, Inc. v. ......
  • Vallejos v. Lan Cargo S.A., No. 3D12–1259.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 19, 2013
    ...for the employee relinquishing his or her right to seek certain common law remedies from the employer....Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d 1100, 1104 (Fla.2006) (emphasis added). “Where an injury is suffered in the course and scope of employment, worker's compensation is the exclusive......
  • Silberberg v. Palm Beach Cnty. Sch. Bd., 1D20-75
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 16, 2022
    ...into the work-causation analysis would be to impermissibly inject fault into the equation. See Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc. , 932 So. 2d 1100, 1104 (Fla. 2006) (explaining that "the workers' compensation system provides employees limited medical and wage loss benefits, without regard t......
  • Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co., No. 12–11755.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • April 15, 2013
    ...immunize an employer from suit when: (1) the employer's intentional tort causes the employee's injury, see Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d 1100, 1104–05 (Fla.2006); Fla. Stat. § 440.11(1)(b)(1); or (2) the employer's conduct is “substantially certain” to injure the employee, Eller, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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