Pipeline employee can not pursue negligence claims in opposition to employer

An oil pipeline employee who has been seriously injured by the pipe-laying machine he is operating cannot make any liability claims against his employer as the current seller of the machines.

In the Scott v. Key Energy Services Inc. case, the 8th St. Louis Appeals Court ruled Wednesday that the exclusive remedies provided by the North Dakota Workers Compensation Act excluded the employee’s claims.

Key Energy provides oil and gas pipeline maintenance and uses equipment designed and manufactured by Hydra-Walk Inc. to enable operators to pick up and route pipe. In 2008, Key Energy merged with Hydra-Walk and owned the patents and equipment for the Hydra-Walk system.

In 2013, Key Energy hired Lukeus Scott as a Hydra Walk rider. Two weeks after his start, he sustained injuries to his spine, right hand, legs and internal organs when the Hydra-Walk system he operated overturned and crushed him. He applied for employee compensation and received more than $ 340,000 over five years.

In April 2018, Mr. Scott filed product liability and negligence claims against Key Energy and Hydra-Walk. He claimed the system was defective, inappropriately dangerous, and caused his injuries. He argued that as the successor to Hydra-Walk, Key Energy was responsible for the development, manufacture, sale and leasing of the systems. Key Energy moved for a summary judgment on the State’s Workers Compensation Act being Mr. Scott’s exclusive remedy.

A district court granted the motion and ruled that Mr. Scott’s claims were excluded by exclusive appeal and Mr. Scott appealed.

The appeals court upheld the decision. The court dismissed Mr Scott’s claims that Hydra-Walk was a third party, stating that the merger occurred five years before his accident and that Hydra-Walk no longer existed. The court also ruled that Mr Scott’s argument that the dual capacity doctrine – in which an employee can bring claims against the employer when that employer has a second obligation regardless of his primary employer responsibility – did not apply to his claims is.

In a dissent, Judge Jane Kelly ruled that the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the double capacity doctrine was inapplicable “left open the possibility of an exception to the exclusive remedy rule when the employer has legal personality” and that the law “Preferred permission to (Mr.) Scott to pursue his tort claims against his employer as successor to Hydra-Walk, with the exception of dual persona of exclusive appeal.

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