Sitzman v. Schumaker (State Report Title: Sitzman v. Shumaker)

Decision Date15 May 1986
Docket NumberNos. 85-259,85-260,s. 85-259
Citation221 Mont. 304,43 St.Rep. 831,718 P.2d 657
PartiesBarbara SITZMAN, Petitioner and Appellant, v. Jake SCHUMAKER, Respondent and Respondent. James H. SITZMAN, Petitioner and Appellant, v. Jake SCHUMAKER, Respondent and Respondent. *
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Kelly & Kelly, Patrick J. Kelly, argued, Terry J. Hanson, Miles City, for petitioner and appellant.

Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich, William J. Mattix, Billings, argued, for respondent and respondent.

HARRISON, Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment of the District Court in the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Montana, in and for Prairie County. We reverse and remand for trial.

The plaintiff, James Sitzman, worked for the defendant, Jake Shumaker, performing general ranch labor. The two men did not get along. Shumaker often called Sitzman a "son-of-a-bitch" and "idiot." Sitzman did not respond to these names at first, but eventually began shouting back.

The day Sitzman was injured, he and Shumaker were working together. Shumaker asked Sitzman if the calf feeders were full. Sitzman responded by telling Shumaker that the first one was half full, the second about three-quarters full, and the third one was about two-thirds full. Shumaker exploded, saying "I believe you, you god damn idiot. Can't you just say 'yes' or 'no'?" Later in the morning, Shumaker asked Sitzman if he wanted to work on the tractor. Sitzman responded, "Yeah, sure, no problem. Let's go to work on it." Shumaker again exploded, saying, "you god damn son-of-a-bitch. Why can't you just say 'yes' or 'no'?" When Sitzman replied, "Don't call me an s.o.b.," Shumaker walked over to him and struck him several times in the face. Sitzman pushed Shumaker to the ground. Shumaker then picked up a four-foot length of two-inch pipe and held it over his head. Sitzman asked Shumaker not to hit him, and turned to walk away. Shumaker hit Sitzman on the back of the head and when Sitzman turned to protect himself, hit him on the front of the head, knocking him to the ground, unconscious. Sitzman suffered severe injuries, including a fractured skull. The extensive head injuries have altered the course of his life.

Sitzman applied for and was granted temporary total disability wage and medical benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. He brought this action in the District Court to recover damages caused by Shumaker's attack. His wife, Barbara, brought an action for loss of consortium, society, support, comfort and companionship of her husband due to his injuries. Shumaker moved for summary judgment.

Judgment was granted in both actions for the stated reason that because of Sitzman's application for and receipt of Workers' Compensation benefits, their remedies were exclusive to the Workers' Compensation Act. Upon stipulation of the parties, the Sitzmans' actions were consolidated for purpose of appeal.

The issue presented for review by Sitzmans is whether receipt of Workers' Compensation benefits by them results in an election pursuant to Sec. 39-71-411, MCA, thereby barring them from a common law tort action against employer Shumaker.

Summary judgment is proper only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Cereck v. Albertson's (1981), 195 Mont. 409, 411, 637 P.2d 509, 510. The lower court, in granting summary judgment, reasoned that by filing for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act "Sitzman became subject to the provision of the Act and more specifically Sec. 39-71-411, MCA."

The exclusivity clause, found in Sec. 39-71-411, MCA, provides in pertinent part:

For all employments covered under the Workers' Compensation Act or for which an election has been made for coverage under this chapter, the provisions of this chapter are exclusive....

The election referred to in Sec. 39-71-411, MCA, however, is the election to come under the Act made by an employer not specifically covered by the Act pursuant to Sec. 39-71-401(2), MCA. It has no reference to an employee seeking to recover for injuries suffered as a result of an assault and battery committed personally by the employer upon the employee who also may have filed for and received Workers' Compensation benefits.

Ordinarily, when an employee is injured in the work place due to negligence or accident, his remedy is exclusive to the Workers' Compensation Act. Noonan v. Spring Creek Forest Products (Mont.1985), 700 P.2d 623, 625, 42 St.Rep. 759, 762. Common law damages are not available under Sec. 39-71-411, MCA, for injuries negligently or accidentally inflicted by an employer. Negligence claims should...

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17 cases
  • Van Fossen v. Babcock & Wilcox Co.
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • April 13, 1988
    ...360 N.W.2d 214, where the plaintiff employed by a doctor was locked in an office, threatened with violence, and battered; Sitzman v. Schumaker (Mont.1986), 718 P.2d 657, where the employer intentionally hit the employee on the head with a pipe; Pryor v. United States Gypsum Co. (W.D.Mo.1984......
  • Hensley v. Mont. State Fund
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    • December 16, 2020
    ...Lumberman's Mut. Cas. Co. , 2009 MT 368, ¶ 56, 353 Mont. 265, 222 P.3d 566 (Morris, J., dissenting) (citing Sitzman v. Shumaker , 221 Mont. 304, 307-08, 718 P.2d 657, 659 (1986) ).1 ¶53 The WCA has gone through many legislative reforms. A significant reform in 1987 provided for injured work......
  • Zimmerman by Zimmerman v. Valdak Corp.
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    ...individually responsible for their intentional actions. In effect, it would allow an employer to buy the right to hit an employee. Sitzman, 718 P.2d at 659. Furthermore, workers' compensation is founded on the principle of insurance. Providing immunity to employers for intentional torts is ......
  • Blailock v. O'BANNON
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    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • September 27, 2001
    ...(1998); Caudle v. Betts, 512 So.2d 389 (La.1987); Beauchamp v. Dow Chemical Co., 427 Mich. 1, 398 N.W.2d 882 (1986); Sitzman v. Schumaker, 221 Mont. 304, 718 P.2d 657 (1986); Beavers v. Johnson Controls World Servs., 120 N.M. 343, 901 P.2d 761 (1995); Cottone v. County of Schenectady, 134 M......
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