WA Legal Roundup: Division III
Mr. Williams (no relation to this writer) was injured while on a job site in Idaho. He filed a workers compensation claim with the State of Idaho. Williams’ employer, Leone & Keeble, Inc. (“L&K”) was based in Spokane, Washington. Idaho has an exclusive remedy for injured workers that does not allow the injured worker to bring a tort action against the employer.
Williams then proceeded to file a tort action against his employer in Washington since that was the employer’s location. L&K moved for dismissal based on lack of jurisdiction. L&K’s argument was that Washington did not have jurisdiction over the issue because Idaho had already asserted jurisdiction over the issue when it accepted Williams’ benefits claim. Thus L&K claimed that res judicata applied and jurisdiction was in Idaho. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case.
Division III held that prior case law had already decided this issue. The sole remedy for a worker’s injury is a claim for benefits to the Idaho Industrial Commission. And if the injured party files a claim for benefits before bringing a tort action, then the Industrial Commission has the first right to determine jurisdiction and the determination “is res judicata upon the question of jurisdiction.”
So if you are injured while working in Idaho and your employer is in another state, run and file a lawsuit in the other state first and then file for benefits in Idaho. Something seems wrong with this reasoning.