Virginia Exclusive Remedy Law And Teacher’s Lawsuit
Over the weekend, I came across a story in USA Today where the Newport News School District responded to a lawsuit by the teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student even after the school system was given three warnings concerning the child. Will the Virginia exclusive remedy laws hold up or will the teacher be allowed to pursue the district regardless of the Workers Comp benefits that have been or will be provided in the near future?
The article can be found at this link. The shooting received national attention from the press – likely due to the age of the perpetrator.
The Case Up Until Now
The injured teacher’s attorney has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the district’s school system. The response from the district was that the Virginia exclusive remedy for worker’s compensation would apply, not the general liability laws.
From the article –
“The district argued if the child had stabbed Zwerner in the neck with sharp scissors rather than shooting her with a gun, there would be no question the injury would fall under worker’s compensation. Zwerner refused to accept worker’s compensation and filed her lawsuit instead, the school board claimed.”
I am not going to make a comment on the validity or invalidity of the case. When I see the words exclusive remedy, my attention always goes to those articles.
I have written a few articles over the years on the exclusive remedy of worker’s comp. The definition of exclusive remedy comes down to the injured employee having to accept WC as their benefit for an on-the-job accident or occupational disease.
Unlike Virginia’s exclusive remedy laws in North Carolina, our HQ state has an act of violence statute where a teacher injured through an act of violence by a student is paid for a whole year of full wages from the school district. Workers Comp then may take over paying the benefits if the teacher is not returning to work after the one year of salary continuation.
Check out the Act of Violence for NC Teachers and other school personnel here.
When I was administering the NC School Boards Association workers comp program, we had approximately 6 – 8 teachers that were drawing this benefit before any workers comp benefits would have taken over the payments. The state would not allow payments to be made by the Workers Comp program for teachers. The school district had to pay the benefits.
Will the Virginia exclusive remedy laws negate the lawsuit? That remains for a Judge to decide in the near future. I will report back if any developments occur in the case.