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Can injured Michigan workers ever sue their employers?

Under Michigan law, workers who are injured on the job can generally receive workers' compensation benefits, but they cannot sue their employers. However, there are certain rare situations where a workplace injury lawsuit against an employer may be appropriate.

A federal appeals court recently ruled that a Michigan trial court made a mistake when it dismissed the civil lawsuit that two workers' compensation claimants filed against Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. and a third-party administrator.

The two former Coca-Cola employees were both injured in separate workplace accidents, and in 2009 they filed a lawsuit claiming that a third-party administrator purposely denied worker's compensation benefits to injured Coca-Cola employees when medical evidence supported the claims.

They said that this scheme amounted to fraud and that Coca-Cola and a particular physician who was involved filed false medical reports after workers were injured on the job. These alleged actions violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, according to a lawsuit the workers filed.

A district court, however, dismissed the lawsuit, saying that it was an attempted run-around of Michigan's workers' compensation laws.

An appeals court has now said that the district court made an error in this decision, because Michigan workers can actually sue their employers, and third-party administrators, after a workers' compensation claim has been settled or denied if allegations and evidence of fraud exist.

Workers' compensation laws are very complicated. In order for workers to receive the relief that they need and for employers to be held responsible for harboring unsafe work environments or engaging in insurance fraud, it is important for injured workers to have legal resources available.

Source: Business Insurance, "Trial court erred in dismissing RICO violations lawsuit brought by Coca-Cola workers," Roberto Ceniceros, Nov. 2, 2012

  • Our law firm handles cases like the one discussed here. More information about Michigan workers' compensation law is posted on our Michigan Workplace Accident page.

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