Idaho Supreme Court Sides with Family of Worker Killed

December 24, 2019

The Idaho Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling allowing the family of a Caldwell worker who died on the job to sue the employer for wrongful death.

Generally workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for employees who are killed or injured by workplace accidents, but state law makes an exception for accident caused by “willful or unprovoked physical aggression” against an employee.

The 4-1 ruling sides with the family of Francisca Gomez, 63, of Parma, who had filed a lawsuit against Crookham Company in Caldwell after the woman’s death at work in January 2016.

Gomez died of injuries after her hair was caught in machinery while cleaning a seed-sorting machine.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued “serious” violations against the company and the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit after receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

The lawsuit was dismissed by the 3rd District Court and was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard the case twice in a highly unusual turn of events.

The court ruled on Friday for the family, whose attorneys argued that an exception can be made when the employer acts with “willful or unprovoked physical aggression.” The court directed the trial court to reconsider whether Crookham “consciously disregarded knowledge of a serious risk to Mrs. Gomez.”

Crookham Company officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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