Jim Shaw and Bart Cannon were successful in their petition for writ of mandamus to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. A summary of the featured case, Ex parte Thompson Tractor Company, Inc. , is provided below.
- In May of 2011, Ray Franklin (“the employee”) and Donna Franklin (“the widow”) jointly filed a complaint against Thompson Tractor Company, Inc. (“Thompson Tractor”) and other defendants. Pertinent allegations in Count Six of the Complaint included: “As a result of Defendant’s actions, Plaintiff Ray Franklin contracted one or more asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis;” “Plaintiff Ray Franklin has been diagnosed with asbestosis;” and “the plaintiff, Ray Franklin, received an injury or injuries arising out of and in the course of plaintiff’s said employment… as a proximate result of said employment, Plaintiff has suffered an injury to his person.” The trial court later severed Count Six from the Complaint, and assigned the severed claim (“the workers’ compensation action”) a separate civil action number. After Count Six was severed, the clerk and the parties continued to identify the widow as a named plaintiff in the workers’ compensation action. However, the widow failed to make any claim in the workers’ compensation action.
- In October of 2011, prior to the adjudication of the employee’s rights based on his workers’ compensation claim, the employee died. On February 1, 2012, the widow filed a motion to be substituted as the plaintiff in the workers’ compensation action in her individual capacity and also in her capacity as personal representative of the estate of her husband, the employee. Additionally, the widow filed a motion to amend the complaint to add a wrongful death claim and a claim for death benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. While the widow’s motions remained pending, Thompson Tractor filed a motion to dismiss the workers’ compensation action based on the theory that the trial court lost subject-matter jurisdiction upon the death of the employee in October of 2011. The widow filed a separate civil action seeking death benefits under the Act (“the death-benefits action”) and later moved to consolidate the death-benefits action with the workers’ compensation action. The trial court granted the window’s motion to consolidate and denied Thompson Tractor’s motion to dismiss.
- Thompson Tractor filed a motion to reconsider, which remained pending when it filed its petition for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals order the trial court to dismiss the workers’ compensation action. In citing long-standing Alabama precedent which holds “[an employee’s] rights [to workers’ compensation benefits] terminate[s] at his [or her] death,” and “A workers’ compensation claim is not considered an action that survives the death of an employee so that it may be continued in the name of a personal representative of the estate of the employee,” the Court of Civil Appeals granted Thompson Tractor’s petition and ordered the trial court to dismiss the workers’ compensation action.
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