RI Superior Court judge dismisses personal injury claim against nursing home

PROVIDENCE (July 28, 2014) – Sheri L. Pizzi recently persuaded a Rhode Island Superior Court judge to dismiss the personal injury claim of an individual against a skilled nursing facility on the basis that his claim was excluded under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.

A third-party staffing company placed the plaintiff at the nursing home as the facility’s housekeeping manager. The staffing company paid the man’s salary and handled other administrative aspects of his employment.

However, personnel at the nursing home directed his day-to-day job responsibilities, assigned his work tasks, and determined his work schedule. The facility also retained the authority to warn or discipline him for poor work performance.

The Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Act excludes an individual injured on the job from suing a “special employer” for personal injury and other tort claims.

Pizzi convinced the court that her client fit the statutory meaning of “special employer”—essentially an employer that contracts for services with another employer for the use of an employee – and, thus, that her client was immune from this suit.

The employee was allegedly injured when he slipped on ice and snow during the course of his employment. He obtained workers’ compensation benefits related to his injuries before filing suit against the nursing home.

“I am pleased for my client that the case was dismissed in its entirety before trial,” said Pizzi. “The judge recognized that under the circumstances of this case the employee’s sole avenue for recovery was workers’ compensation.”

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