Case Caption: Timothy Defoe v. Lenroy Phillip,Case Number: S.Ct.Civ. No. 2009-0007Date: 01/05/2012Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

In considering plaintiff's civil suit alleging gross negligence against a co-employee arising out of a workplace accident, the Superior Court properly applied the holding of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Tavarez v. Klingensmith, 372 F.3d 188 (3d Cir. 2004), which held that a co-employee performing a non-delegable duty on behalf of an employer covered by the Virgin Islands Workers' Compensation Act, 24 V.I.C. § 250 et seq., is entitled to the same statutory immunity as the employer. However, as that Court has acknowledged in Pichardo v. V.I. Comm'r of Labor, 53 V.I. 936, 939, 613 F.3d 87, 89 (3d Cir. 2010) and Gov't of the V.I. v. Lewis, 620 F.3d 359, 364 n.5 (3d Cir. 2010), the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands is not bound by prior federal interpretations of Virgin Islands local statutes, and an independent analysis of the Act's statutory language and the Legislature's intent indicates that the Legislature did not intend to include employees such as the defendant in its definition of "employer." Because the plain language of the Act does not support extending an employer's immunity from suit to a co-employee, the Legislature did not intend to prohibit lawsuits against co-employees when it enacted the Act, and thus the defendant is not entitled to claim the same immunity from suit that the Act affords to his employer. The Superior Court's January 13, 2009, January 16, 2009, and February 12, 2009 Opinions and Orders granting summary judgment in the defendant's favor and dismissing plaintiff's complaint are reversed, and the matter is remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion