Allegheny judge dismisses first count of woman's lawsuit against former employer

By S. Laney Griffo | Apr 27, 2017


PITTSBURGH — An Allegheny County judge has dismissed one of two counts of a woman’s complaint for damages due to alleged work-related abuse.

Lisa Simpson filed suit against her former employer, Carmeuse Lime and Stone and Wendy Kinest, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Judge Terrence O'Brien, on April 6, dismissed Count I of her complaint.

While employed with Carmeuse, Simpson occasionally worked with Kinest. Simpson complained to the human resources department, according to the complaint, that Kinest “did not like Simpson personally or treat her professionally.”

She also allegedly told HR that Kinest gossiped about the other employees.

Simpson alleges that Carmeuse did not do enough to address the issue, and she later quit because of the abuse. She also alleges that because of the abuse, she suffered from health problems.

She filed the suit claiming the company and Kinest were responsible for her injuries and claimed there was intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants filed an objection to the complaint.

Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (PWCA), section 481, employers are not held liable in private tort actions when work-related injury complaints are filed by an employee.

The objection said Simpson should not be able to file this complaint with the court because of this immunity provided for in the PWCA.

“Pursuant to this exclusivity provision, Pennsylvania courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to consider an employee’s tort claims for a work-related injury,” the objection said.

An exception to this rule is the third-party attack exception that gives leeway when the co-employee attacks an individual for personal reasons.

Since Simpson said Kinest had gossiped about other employees as well, the defense claimed she could not prove the insults toward her were because of personal reasons.

“Accordingly, because Simpson has failed to plead that Kinest’s alleged acts were motivated by purely personal reasons directed to Simpson, the third-party attack exception does not apply as a matter of law,” the objection said.

Finally, the objection pointed out that Simpson did not provide enough evidence to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress because, according to the objection, “a plaintiff must plead conduct that is outrageous, extreme, atrocious, ‘beyond all possible bounds of decency.’”

After considering the objections, O'Brien dismissed Count I of the complaint but overruled the defendants' objections to the second count.

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