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Goad v. Hambridge

February 18, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of Stevens County. Docket No: 92-2-00393-5. Date filed: 11/05/93. Judge signing: Hon. Larry M. Kristianson.

Rehearing Denied July 8, 1997,

Authored by Philip J. Thompson. Concurring: Dennis J. Sweeney, Frank L. Kurtz.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson

THOMPSON, J. James and Betty Goad appeal the summary dismissal of their claims against Springdale Lumber Co., arising out of Mr. Goad's workplace injury. They claim the evidence established a factual issue whether Springdale deliberately intended the injury, so as to avoid the exclusive remedy provided by the state Industrial Insurance Act, Title 51 RCW. We affirm.

Mr. Goad's hand was severely injured when he reached in to remove a loose piece of wood from the planer at Springdale's sawmill on October 31, 1989. The Goads later sued Springdale and its owners, James and Carolyn Hambidge, *fn1 alleging Springdale willfully and deliberately failed to make the equipment safe and to warn of dangers associated with it, and negligently or intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress.

In response to Springdale's motion for summary judgment, the Goads presented evidence that Yates-American Machine Co., successor to the manufacturer of the planer on which Mr. Goad was injured, had advised Springdale repeatedly of the potential for serious injury on the equipment. Yates-American's letters advised owners to conduct periodic safety meetings to make employees aware of the dangers, and offered guard kits (including warning signs) to protect workers from the machine's pinch points. Springdale did not contact Yates-American about the safety concerns. Mr. Goad testified he was not told of Yates-American's concerns, nor did Springdale conduct regular safety meetings.

Mr. Goad testified safety officials discussed a lock-out procedure to permit workers to shut down the machine safely before reaching inside it, but Springdale did not implement such a procedure. *fn2 Nor did Springdale provide warning signs or guards on the machine's pinch points. However, all persons who operated the planer (including Mr. Goad) were told not to reach into the machine while it was operating.

Mr. Goad admitted he was aware of the danger of reaching into the machine, and it would have been easy for him to shut it down before reaching inside. He characterized his action as a "lapse in thought" resulting from "absent mindedness," but testified he would not have reached inside if Springdale had placed more emphasis on safety, installed guards and warning signs, and instituted a lock-out procedure. Mr. Goad conceded no one instructed him to reach into the planer, nor did he believe anyone wanted him to be hurt.

The superior court concluded the evidence failed to establish a "deliberate intention" of Springdale to produce Mr. Goad's injury, and the claims thus were not viable pursuant to RCW 51.24.020. The court denied reconsideration of its summary judgment order, and the Goads appealed. Springdale cross-appealed the superior court's denial of attorney fees, but this court dismissed the cross-appeal as untimely.

Meanwhile, contending the superior court's earlier summary judgment order did not dispense with all of their allegations, the Goads attempted to proceed with the claims for negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress. The superior court granted Springdale's motion for summary judgment as to those claims, and the Goads now have appealed that order. Springdale timely cross-appealed the superior court's denial of attorney fees as part of its second summary judgment order. The two appeals have been consolidated.

In reviewing a summary judgment order, this court engages in the same inquiry as did the superior court. Atherton Condo. Apartment-Owners Ass'n Bd. v. Blume Dev. Co., 115 Wash. 2d 506, 515-16, 799 P.2d 250 (1990). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." CR 56(c). The burden is on the moving party to establish its right to judgment as a matter of law, and facts and reasonable inferences from the facts are considered in favor of the nonmoving party. Our Lady of Lourdes Hosp. v. Franklin County, 120 Wash. 2d 439, 452, 842 P.2d 956 (1993).

We first consider whether there is a genuine issue whether Springdale deliberately intended to bring about Mr. Goad's injury. Washington's Industrial Insurance Act generally makes employers immune from civil suits by workers. RCW 51.04.010; see Birklid v. Boeing Co., 127 Wash. 2d 853, 859, 904 P.2d 278 (1995). However, this immunity does not apply to employers who deliberately injure their employees:

If injury results to a worker from the deliberate intention of his or her employer to produce such injury, the worker or beneficiary of the worker shall have the privilege to take under this title and also have cause of action against the employer as if this title had not been enacted, for any damages in excess of compensation and benefits paid or payable under this title. RCW 51.24.020.

Washington cases have interpreted this provision to require "'a specific intent, and not merely carelessness or negligence, however gross.'" Delthony v. Standard Furniture Co., 119 Wash. 298, 300, 205 P. 379 (1922) (quoting Jenkins v. Carman Mfg. Co., 79 Ore. 448, 155 P. 703 (1916)); Birklid, 127 Wash. ...

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