State ex rel. Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors, Inc. v. Ferriss, No. 61116

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BARDGETT, C. J., RENDLEN, MORGAN, JJ., and HIGGINS; DONNELLY; SEILER, J., and HENLEY, Senior Judge, dissent and concur in separate dissenting opinion of DONNELLY; WELLIVER; DONNELLY
Citation588 S.W.2d 489
PartiesSTATE of Missouri ex rel. MARYLAND HEIGHTS CONCRETE CONTRACTORS, INC., Relator, v. The Honorable Franklin R. FERRISS, Respondent.
Decision Date11 September 1979
Docket NumberNo. 61116

Page 489

588 S.W.2d 489
STATE of Missouri ex rel. MARYLAND HEIGHTS CONCRETE
CONTRACTORS, INC., Relator,
v.
The Honorable Franklin R. FERRISS, Respondent.
No. 61116.
Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.
Sept. 11, 1979.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 14, 1979.

Peter B. Hoffman, Joseph M. Kortenhof, Kortenhof & Ely, St. Louis, for relator.

Lawrence B. Grebel, Donald L. James, Moser, Marsalek, Carpenter, Cleary, Jaeckel, Keaney & Brown, St. Louis, for respondent.

PER CURIAM.

This is an original proceeding in prohibition. The case arises out of a wrongful death action filed by the survivors of Donald Meiser against Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors, Inc. (hereinafter "Maryland"). Maryland was a subcontractor of

Page 490

Meiser's employer, Charter Development Corporation (hereinafter "Charter"). The plaintiffs alleged that Meiser was killed at a construction site by the explosion of a space heater due to Maryland's negligence. Maryland denied negligence on its part, asserted contributory negligence by Meiser, and filed a third-party petition against several third-party defendants, including Charter, asserting that each third-party defendant shared responsibility for the death. Charter moved to dismiss the third-party petition against it, asserting that as Meiser's employer, its liability under The Workmen's Compensation Law excluded all other liability. See section 287.120, RSMo 1978. After argument on October 20, 1978, respondent Judge Ferriss indicated his intention to sustain Charter's motion to dismiss. Our preliminary rule in prohibition issued December 18, 1978.

The question is whether Charter, as Meiser's employer, can be made a defendant in the underlying case under the authority of Missouri Pacific Railroad Company v. Whitehead & Kales Company, 566 S.W.2d 466 (Mo. banc 1978).

We need not examine the breadth and scope of Whitehead & Kales, supra, because the question is answered by section 287.120.1, RSMo 1978, which provides:

1. Every employer subject to the provisions of this chapter shall be liable, irrespective of negligence, to furnish compensation under the provisions of this chapter for personal injury or death of the employee by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, and shall be released from all other liability therefor whatsoever, whether to the employee or any other person. . . . "

The statute, supra, is clear and unambiguous. It operates to release the employer from all other liability. In McDonnell Air. Corp. v. Hartman-Hanks-Walsh P. Co., 323 S.W.2d 788 (Mo.1959), the court allowed the non-employer defendant to maintain an indemnity action against the employer of the injured employee but only on the basis that the employer defendant (Hartman ) had breached a duty it expressly agreed (contracted) to perform with the non-employer (McDonnell ). The rationale of the McDonnell case, supra, supports the conclusion that, aside from the exception noted therein, the employer is not liable to the non-employer defendant for any sums that non-employer party is liable for to the injured plaintiff-employee in tort.

Other cases cited by relator have been considered. The court holds that section 287.120.1, RSMo 1978, statutorily immunizes Charter, the employer, from common-law liability to Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors, Inc., and Missouri Pacific Railroad Company v. Whitehead & Kales Company, supra, does not remove the immunity conferred by section 287.120.1, supra.

Relator contends section 287.120.1 violates sections 2, 10, and 14 of Art. 1, Mo.Const., 1 and the due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, amendments 5 and 14. Similar attacks were made upon the Florida statute which immunized the employer from liability in tort for contribution in a suit by a negligent third-party defendant. The contentions were rejected in Seaboard Coast Line R. Co. v. Smith, 359 So.2d 427 (Fla.1978). In speaking about workmen's compensation, the court stated at 429:

"The Workmen's Compensation Act, by its express terms, replaces tort liability of

Page 491

the employer with strict liability for payment of the statutory benefits without regard to fault. An employer under this Act is not liable in tort to employees by virtue of the express language of the Act. Such immunity is the heart and soul of this legislation which has, over the years been of highly significant social and economic benefit to the working man, the employer and the State. And, whether the injury to the employee is caused by 'gross negligence', 'wanton negligence', 'simple negligence' passive or active, or no negligence at all of the employer, is of no consequence. There is no...

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43 practice notes
  • Renfrow v. Gojohn, No. KCD30659
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 7, 1980
    ...did not violate the provisions of Article 1, Section 14. See also State ex rel. Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors Inc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 491 (2) (Mo.banc Defendant next argues that the trial court should not have made a final ruling against him at the present stage of the proc......
  • Parks v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 61468
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • June 10, 1980
    ...to the law from other tort liability in light of Missouri Pac. R. Co. v. Whitehead & Kales Co., supra. State ex rel., etc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489 (Mo. banc 1979), subsequently held that because the question was answered by the statute the court "need not examine the breadth and scope of......
  • Cooney v. Osgood Machinery, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • March 25, 1993
    ...and economic benefit to the working [person], the employer and the State.' " (State ex rel. Maryland Hgts. Concrete Contrs. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 491 [Mo.], quoting Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Smith, 359 So.2d 427, 429 [Fla.].) The court, quoting further from the Florida case, als......
  • Fisher v. State Highway Com'n of Mo., No. 79284
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 17, 1997
    ...cert. denied, 459 U.S. 884, 103 S.Ct. 185, 74 L.Ed.2d 149 (1982); State ex rel. Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors, Inc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 490-91 (Mo. banc 1979); Independent Stave Co., Inc. v. Higdon, 572 S.W.2d 424, 428-29 [4, 5] (Mo. banc 1978); State ex rel. Lipps v. City o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • Renfrow v. Gojohn, No. KCD30659
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • April 7, 1980
    ...did not violate the provisions of Article 1, Section 14. See also State ex rel. Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors Inc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 491 (2) (Mo.banc Defendant next argues that the trial court should not have made a final ruling against him at the present stage of the proc......
  • Parks v. Union Carbide Corp., No. 61468
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • June 10, 1980
    ...to the law from other tort liability in light of Missouri Pac. R. Co. v. Whitehead & Kales Co., supra. State ex rel., etc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489 (Mo. banc 1979), subsequently held that because the question was answered by the statute the court "need not examine the breadth and scope of......
  • Cooney v. Osgood Machinery, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • March 25, 1993
    ...and economic benefit to the working [person], the employer and the State.' " (State ex rel. Maryland Hgts. Concrete Contrs. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 491 [Mo.], quoting Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Smith, 359 So.2d 427, 429 [Fla.].) The court, quoting further from the Florida case, als......
  • Fisher v. State Highway Com'n of Mo., No. 79284
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • June 17, 1997
    ...cert. denied, 459 U.S. 884, 103 S.Ct. 185, 74 L.Ed.2d 149 (1982); State ex rel. Maryland Heights Concrete Contractors, Inc. v. Ferriss, 588 S.W.2d 489, 490-91 (Mo. banc 1979); Independent Stave Co., Inc. v. Higdon, 572 S.W.2d 424, 428-29 [4, 5] (Mo. banc 1978); State ex rel. Lipps v. City o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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