It is common knowledge that workers’ compensation schemes bar, in most circumstances, negligence claims brought by an employee against his or her employer. Given that recovery in the workers’ compensation setting can be more limited than desired, litigants will often try to fit their negligence claims against an employer within the confines of those claims that are not barred under workers’ compensation laws. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently dealt with this practice in Dixon v. CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc., a case that arose from the injury of an employee who fell while on the job.
The plaintiff in Dixon is an employee of the defendant, CSX Intermodal Terminals (“CSXIT”), which is a business providing motor carrier and transloading services. While attempting to unlock an interbox-connector, which is used to hitch containers in a railcar, the plaintiff fell. Following this accident, the plaintiff received $162,000 in workers’ compensation insurance benefits, the receipt of which bars claims for common law negligence against the employer under Georgia law. However, the statutory scheme does not bar claims brought under the Federal Employee Liability Act (“FELA”), and the plaintiff ultimately brought suit against CSXIT, alleging a negligence claim under this statute. The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, which argued that it is not covered by the provisions of the FELA. The employee appealed.