Thompson v. Lewis County

Decision Date24 May 1979
Docket NumberNo. 45663,45663
PartiesRichard D. THOMPSON and Mary Ann Thompson, his wife, Respondents, v. LEWIS COUNTY, a municipal corporation of the State of Washington, Petitioner.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Reed, McClure, Moceri, Thonn, P. S., Inc., William Hickman, Seattle, for petitioner.

H. Frank Stubbs, Tacoma, for respondents.

WRIGHT, Justice.

This is an appeal from the Superior Court in Pierce County. The matter initially was taken to the Court of Appeals for Division II and from there certified to this Court. The respondent raises two questions: (1) Can an action be maintained against the employer county based upon alleged failure to properly construct and maintain a county road or is the injured workman's exclusive remedy under the Washington workmen's compensation system? And (2), Is there an action in this state for loss of consortium?

Respondent Richard Thompson was an employee of the Lewis County Road Department and was driving a county truck in the course of his employment on July 26, 1974. A vehicle pulled onto the county road in front of the truck respondent was driving and stalled. In avoiding a collision respondent drove the county truck off the roadway whereupon it rolled over and struck a tree. Respondent was seriously injured, becoming a quadriplegic. He made claim under the Washington Workmen's Compensation Act and has received benefits thereunder.

Respondent now seeks to sue the county upon a theory of dual capacity; that is, in one capacity it was his employer, in the other capacity it was a municipal corporation or governmental agency with a duty to properly construct and maintain county roads for the use and benefit of the public. In this connection it should be noted that the respondent was employed by the road department which is the same county department which had the duty to maintain the road.

We reverse the superior court and dismiss the action for the reason that under the facts of this case the sole remedy available to respondent was given by the Workmen's Compensation Act.

The original creation of the system of workmen's compensation or industrial insurance in Washington was effectuated by chapter 74 of Laws of 1911. Section 1 of that original act provides:

The common law system governing the remedy of workmen against employers for injuries received in hazardous work is inconsistent with modern industrial conditions. In practice it proves to be economically unwise and unfair. Its administration has produced the result that little of the cost of the employer has reached the workman and that little only at large expense to the public. The remedy of the workman has been uncertain, slow and inadequate. Injuries in such works, formerly occasional, have become frequent and inevitable. The welfare of the state depends upon its industries, and even more upon the welfare of its wage-worker. The State of Washington, therefore, exercising herein its police and sovereign power, declares that all phases of the premises are withdrawn from private controversy, and sure and certain relief for workmen, injured in extra hazardous work, and their families and dependents is hereby provided regardless of questions of fault and to the exclusion of every other remedy, proceeding or compensation, except as otherwise provided in this act; and to that end all civil actions and civil causes of action for such personal injuries and all jurisdiction of the courts of the state over such causes are hereby abolished, except as in this act provided.

The original act was carefully planned and showed concern for the rights of both employers and employees with every effort to balance those rights. That language has stood the test of time, for the present RCW 51.04.010 contains language almost identical. One change is that the words "injured in extra hazardous work" have been changed to "injured in their work" which reflects the extension of the act to practically all employment. The only other change is from the word "act" used in 1911 (before the existence of any official codification) to "title".

Another provision of the original act evidencing the same intention is section 5 which in part provides: "and, except as in this title otherwise provided, such payment shall be in lieu of any and all rights of action whatsoever against any person whomsoever." RCW 51.32.010 contains identical language except the word "title" is substituted for the word "act".

At the time of the injury RCW 51.24.010 was in effect. It provided in part:

If the injury to a workman is due to negligence or wrong of another not in the same employ, the injured workman or, if death results from the injury, the surviving spouse, children, or dependents, as the case may be, shall elect whether to take under this title or seek a remedy against such other . . . .

That section was repealed in 1977 and RCW 51.24.030 was substituted, which contains the words "third person not in the same employ".

Where the language of the statutes involved is clear and unambiguous it requires no construction or interpretation. State ex rel. Evans v. Brotherhood etc., 41 Wash.2d 133, 145, 247 P.2d 787 (1952); State v. Roth, 78 Wash.2d 711, 714, 479 P.2d 55 (1971); State ex rel. Hagan v Chinook Hotel, Inc., 65 Wash.2d 573, 580, 399 P.2d 8 (1965). This rule has been reiterated in regard to the very act in question here. In Lowry v. Department of Labor and...

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20 cases
  • Lopez v. Johns Manville, C84 155M.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Washington
    • May 19, 1986
    ...nature," West v. Zeibell, 87 Wash.2d 198, 201, 550 P.2d 522, 524 (1976), precludes dual capacity suits, Thompson v. Lewis County, 92 Wash.2d 204, 206, 595 P.2d 541, 542-44 (1979), and parallel third-party claims for contribution: "Where there is no liability, there can be no joint and sever......
  • Cockle v. Dept. of Labor and Industries
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • January 18, 2001 authority in the decisions of other states is useless, for other statutes have no resemblance to ours." Thompson v. Lewis County, 92 Wash.2d 204, 208-09, 595 P.2d 541 (1979); see also Sacred Heart Med. Ctr. v. Dep't of Labor & Indus., 92 Wash.2d 631, 639, 600 P.2d 1015 (1979) (Stafford......
  • Howard v. White, Docket Nos. 96435
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • October 31, 1994
    ...injured by unsafe road conditions or are struck by government vehicles driven by other persons in the same employ. Thompson v. Lewis Co., 92 Wash.2d 204, 595 P.2d 541 (1979) (a county road employee was injured in an accident caused by the county's failure to maintain the roadway); Spencer v......
  • Evans v. Thompson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • September 1, 1994
    ...injuries. Furthermore, Washington's statute has always been stringently construed to eliminate such claims. Thompson v. Lewis Cy., 92 Wash.2d 204, 209, 595 P.2d 541 (1979). With this in mind, I would apply a bright-line rule and find that Robert and Amber Thompson, as corporate officers, we......
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