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Statutory Interpretation – Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act – Exclusive-remedy

WI Supreme Court

Case Name: Francis G. Graef v. Continental Indemnity Company, et al.,

Case No.: 2021 WI 45

Focus: Statutory Interpretation – Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act – Exclusive-remedy

In this case, we must determine whether the exclusive-remedy provision of the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act (the “Act”), Wis. Stat. § 102.03(2) (2017-18), bars the tort action filed by the petitioner, Francis Graef.

In 2017, Graef filed a tort action in circuit court against Continental Indemnity Company (“Continental”), his employer’s worker’s compensation insurance carrier, alleging that his self-inflicted gunshot wound was the result of Continental’s negligence. More specifically, Graef alleged that Continental was negligent in failing to approve payment for a refill of his antidepressant medication——prescribed after a workplace injury——and as result of that negligence, Graef attempted suicide. Continental moved for summary judgment, arguing that Wis. Stat. § 102.03(2) barred Graef’s tort action because the Act provides the exclusive remedy for his injuries. The circuit court concluded that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Act did not bar Graef’s action. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Act provides Graef’s exclusive remedy and that to recover for his injuries, Graef must file a worker’s compensation claim with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

We affirm the decision of the court of appeals, conclude that the Act provides Graef’s exclusive remedy for the injuries alleged in his complaint, and remand the cause to the circuit court with directions to grant summary judgment to Continental on Graef’s negligence claim.

Affirmed

Concur:

Dissent: REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
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Derek A Hawkins is Associate Corporate Counsel, IP at Amazon.

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