According to a report from Business Insurance, an appellate court in California ruled that a workers’ compensation claim is the exclusive remedy available against the employer to the family members of a man who was killed on the job at a grocery store (Jimenez et al. v. Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc). The family had argued that the fraudulent concealment exception applied to the case. However, the court found otherwise. Within this blog post, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense lawyers provide an analysis of the decision.

Case Analysis: Jimenez et al. v. Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc.

The Background & Facts

The case at issue in this workers’ compensation dispute arises out of a tragic accident. A man named Timoteo Alejandro Martinez Ildefonso was struck and severely injured by a pickup truck at a crosswalk while on a 15-minute break at work. He was given treatment at the store and a ride home. Unfortunately, Mr. Martinez Ildefonso passed away from his injuries later that afternoon.

The Legal Issue

The surviving family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets, Inc.—the parent company of Mr. Martinez Ildefonso’s employer. In turn, the employer moved for a dismissal of the wrongful death case on the grounds that the fatal accident occurred within the course and scope of employment. As such, the employer asserted that a workers’ compensation death benefits claim was the sole remedy for the surviving family members.

The Fraudulent Concealment Exception

The exclusive remedy rule under California’s workers’ compensation law provides that workers’ compensation is the sole remedy against an employer for a work-related accident. However, there is an exception: Fraudulent concealment. If an employer fraudulently conceals an employee’s injury—and thereby contributes to the worsening of the employee’s harm—the affected employee (or their surviving family members) can bring a civil action against the employer. It is an exception that is relatively narrow, but that can provide an avenue to step outside of the California workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule.

The Appeals Court Decision

The surviving family of Mr. Martinez Ildefonso filed a wrongful death lawsuit on the basis of fraudulent concealment. A trial court and the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) both found that the exception did not apply to this case. Upon appeal, the California Second Appellate District Court of Appeal agreed. The appellate court found that the exclusive remedy rule of the workers’ compensation system applies in this case. The plaintiff failed to assert sufficient evidence to step outside of the workers’ compensation system on the basis of fraudulent concealment.

Set Up a Confidential Case Review With a Top Workers’ Compensation Defense Attorney

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Fresno workers’ compensation defense attorneys are standing by, ready to protect your interests. If you have any questions about the exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation claims, please do not hesitate to contact us today. From our office in Fresno and other offices in surrounding areas, we are well-positioned to protect the rights of our clients.