North Carolina Appellate Court Denies Plaintiff’s Wrongful Death Claim in Job Site Tractor Accident Fatality

There are few things more devastating in life than suddenly and unexpectedly losing a loved one as the result of another person’s carelessness or recklessness. At Maurer Law, we provide compassionate and diligent legal representation to families who have lost a loved one in this manner. Although few things can truly help you cope with the loss, receiving the compensation that you deserve can help you address the financial impact of the situation. Contact us today to learn more about bringing a Charlotte wrongful death claim on behalf of your loved one.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether summary judgment was appropriately granted in a wrongful death claim. The decedent lost his life when the tractor that he was operating at a construction site began to roll, ejecting him from the machine. The tractor rolled on top of him and he died as a result of his injuries.

His mother filed a wrongful death complaint as the administrator of his estate and alleged that the defendants, the decedent’s employers, were grossly negligent by replacing the seat of the tractor with one that did not have a seatbelt and allowing the tractor to be operated without a seatbelt. The complaint also alleged negligence for failing to adopt safety procedures that would have prevented the operation of the tractor on a slope where it could roll over and by directing the decedent to run the tractor on the slope. The plaintiff alleged that each of these actions were willful and not merely careless accidents.

The defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff’s only remedy was with North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system, which handles work-related injuries. The lower court found that summary judgment was appropriate for some of the defendant-employers and entered it accordingly. But the lower court denied summary judgment against two of the defendant-employers. These defendants appealed.

On review, the appellate court considered whether the plaintiff had offered enough evidence to show that the claims fell outside of the exclusivity provisions of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. For a work-related injury to be heard outside of this system, the plaintiff must show that the employer engaged in intentional misconduct that was substantially certain to lead to the worker’s serious injury or death. Here, even though the record contained evidence of clear OSHA violations, the tractor had been operated for over a year without a seatbelt and there were no prior safety incidents. This fact suggested that the operation of the tractor without a seatbelt was not substantially certain to lead to serious injury or death. As a result, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s denial of summary judgment as to the remaining defendant-employers.

If you lost a loved one to an avoidable or careless accident, then you may be entitled to recovery. At Maurer Law, we have seen firsthand how devastating this situation can be for the surviving loved ones. Our compassionate team of Charlotte wrongful death lawyers is prepared to guide you through the legal process and help you receive the closure that you deserve after this horrifying accident. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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