Clarify the meaning of ‘deliberate intent’

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Our state workers’ compensation arrangement is a compromise. Companies make insurance payments to the system, and workers or their families get money from the pool of funds to compensate them for injuries suffered on the job.

In exchange for paying into the system, employers get legal immunity. Injured employees can’t sue them. It’s a system that works well, in West Virginia as in other states.

There’s one exception to employer immunity: When an employee is killed or injured as a result of the employer’s “deliberate intent,” the employee or his family may sue the employer in addition to collecting workers’ compensation.

The exception is intended to be very narrow. West Virginia law requires strict categories of proof to show deliberate intent. Under the law, mere negligence isn’t enough. Neither is “willful, wanton or reckless misconduct.”

To win a lawsuit, the employee must also show that the employer had “actual knowledge” of an unsafe condition — not merely that the employer should have known about it.

It’s a high bar. And it’s a bar the Legislature — under Democratic control — has clarified more than once.

The problem is that the West Virginia Supreme Court has ignored the plain words of the law…

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