Worker Comp., Immunity from Suit, Deliberate Injury.

Michelbrink v. Washington State Patrol

180 Wn. App. 656, 323 P. 3d 620 (2014), review granted and cause remanded, 33 P.3d 635 (Wash. 2014)

The Court of Appeals granted discretionary review of a Superior Court denial of summary judgment for the employer. Plaintiff claimed he was intentionally injured in a Taser training exercise and sought damages. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Plaintiff is a WSP trooper who participated in a Taser training course. ¶ 3. The exposure to the device stunned plaintiff and he fell and fractured a vertebra. Id.

Product information of the Taser was known to WSP and related that exposure to the device could result in physical injuries including muscle strain and stress/compression fractures. ¶ 15, fn. 13. The lead WSP instructor knew that “the most typical effects” of exposure to a Taser included temporary pain and minor bleeding. ¶ 16.

Generally, the availability of worker compensation benefits immunizes an employer from common law claims. RCW 51.04.010. ¶ 11. An exception is when “injury results . . . from the deliberate intention of [the] employer to produce such injury.” RCW 51.24.020. ¶¶ 11, 13. “Deliberate intention’” is constructed to mean that the employer had actual knowledge that an injury was certain to occur and that it willfully disregarded that knowledge. ¶ 13.

Here, summary judgment for the employer was inappropriate given the knowledge it had about the Taser device and its own trainer’s testimony. “[T]he record shows WSP was aware that certain initial injury would result when a Taser barb contacted a human body.” ¶ 20.