After completing his shift, Decedent, a Defense Base Act (“DBA”) employee in Iraq, returned to his room, which was provided by the Employer. At the same time, other employees were drinking on the Employer’s premises. During an altercation in Decedent’s room, one of these intoxicated employees shot and killed Decedent. The intoxicated employee pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and is currently serving a three year prison.
Plaintiff, Decedent’s widow, filed a claim for death benefits under the DBA. Her claim was accepted and paid. In addition to the DBA claim, Plaintiff filed a “single negligence claim” against Employer and the intoxicated employee. Following discovery–and problems with delay–the Employer filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the Plaintiff’s negligence lawsuit should be dismissed because the DBA was Plaintiff’s exclusive remedy. See 42 U.S.C. § 1651(c) (stating that the compensation scheme under the DBA is “exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer…”).
The Eastern District of Michigan agreed. The negligence action was barred by the Defense Base Act. Although Plaintiff tried to argue in response to the Motion for Summary Judgment that Decedent’s death was intentional, the court noted that the intentional killing argument was just an attempt to avoid summary judgment. Further, all of Plaintiff’s prior pleadings both in the federal court and in the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs asserted that the intoxicated employee accidentally shot Decedent. According to the court, an “accident” is “an (1) unexpected and (2) undesired event.” Decedent’s death, an event that was neither desirable nor foreseeable, was an accident resulting from the interaction between Decedent and the presently-incarcerated, intoxicated employee.
Pope v. Palmer, No. 10-13285, 2011 WL 4502859 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 28, 2011).
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)