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Exclusive Remedy Affirmed by North Carolina Appeals Court


Exclusive Remedy – North Carolina Affirms

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled the doctrine of exclusive remedy is still intact.  The legal environment of today has begun to erode exclusive remedy.

North Carolina Exclusive Remedy Court of Appeals
Wikimedia Commons – NC Court of Appeals

Workers Compensation was originally structured to be the only remedy for injuries suffered on the job.   Employees cannot bring suit against their employers as general liability claims.   Employers are not able to deny the claim due to the employee’s negligence.  This balance was the underpinning of  WC for many years.

There are states that have been eroding exclusive remedy over time such as California.  Recently, I came across a North Carolina Court of Appeals case that concerned exclusive remedy.

The first case was taken from the  2015 North Carolina Court of Appeals  opinions.   If you want to view the complete decision, please follow the link.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Bowden was injured at work. While his workers’ compensation claim was pending, he sued First Liberty Insurance Corporation, the insurer handling the claim, for intentional infliction of emotional distress and bad faith. Bowden alleged that First Liberty engaged in a host of intentionally wrongful conduct while handling his claim and that he suffered various emotional injuries as a result.

Graphic North Carolina Exclusive Remedy Map
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First Liberty moved to dismiss the claims on the ground that the Industrial
Commission had exclusive jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion and First
Liberty appealed.
We reverse. This case is controlled by Johnson v. First Union Corp., 131 N.C. App. 142, 143-44, 504 S.E.2d 808, 809 (1998) and Deem v. Treadaway & Sons Painting & Wallcovering, Inc., 142 N.C. App. 472, 477-78, 543 S.E.2d 209, 212 (2001). In Johnson and Deem, this Court held that claims arising from an employer’s or insurer’s processing and handling of a workers’ compensation claim—even intentional torts—fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission.

We agree with First Liberty that the claims asserted in this case are indistinguishable from those we previously held to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission in Johnson and Deem. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court and remand for dismissal of the claims against First Liberty  for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Woodson v Rowland case from 1991 did allow for an intentional tort to have jurisdiction outside of the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications


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