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Lefiell Manufacturing Company v. the Superior Court of Los Angeles County

March 30, 2011

LEFIELL MANUFACTURING COMPANY, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, RESPONDENT; O'NEIL WATROUS ET AL., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST.



Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. VC055585 PETITION for writ of mandate. Yvonne T. Sanchez, Judge. Petition granted in part, and denied in part.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aldrich, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In this appeal, we resolve two issues addressing the scope of the power press exception in Labor Code section 4558.*fn1 Section 4558 provides an exception to the workers' compensation exclusive remedy rule for employees injured as a result of the employer knowingly having removed or having failed to install a point of operation guard on a power press machine. Award Metals, Inc. v. Superior Court (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 1128 (Award Metals), held the exception applies only for injuries meeting the statute's heightened pleading requirements of knowledge, and an affirmative act on the part of the employer. (Id. at pp. 1134-1136.) We follow Award Metals and reject the application of any exception that would expand section 4558 to permit pleading other tort causes of action requiring a lesser standard of proof.

We also conclude section 4558 does not permit a spouse to bring a loss of consortium cause of action. Nevertheless, since section 4558 is an exclusion from the workers' compensation laws, a spouse may bring a loss of consortium cause of action because that claim is dependent upon an injured spouse's excluded injury.

Here, the complaint sufficiently pleads the power press exception. Accordingly, employer and petitioner LeFiell Manufacturing Company (LeFiell) is entitled to some, but not all, of the relief it seeks, and we shall grant the writ limited to O'Neil Watrous's (hereafter Watrous) additional tort claims that are barred.

BACKGROUND

Watrous was injured operating a FENN 5f swaging machine while working for LeFiell. The swaging machine allegedly is a power press machine.

Watrous and his spouse filed a complaint against LeFiell seeking damages for a violation of section 4558,*fn2 negligence, products liability, and loss of consortium. Since this case arises from LeFiell's demurrer to the complaint, our recitation of the facts is taken from the operative complaint.

1. Civil Complaint for Work-related Injury

The complaint seeks damages arising from a violation of section 4558 (fourth cause of action).*fn3 Watrous's injury allegedly was proximately caused by LeFiell's "knowing and intentional removal of, or knowing and intentional failure to install a point of operation guard" on the FENN 5f swaging machine. The removal of, or failure to install, a point of operation guard was alleged to have been specifically authorized by Watrous's employers under conditions known by them to create a probability of serious injury or death to the user. The manufacturer of the swaging machine "designed, installed[,] required[,] or otherwise provided by specifications the attachment of an appropriate point of operation guard and conveyed knowledge of the same to the employer(s)."

Watrous's negligence cause of action alleges LeFiell had a duty to maintain, manage, control, and generally keep the FENN 5f swaging machine in a safe and reasonable manner so as not to endanger Watrous. LeFiell allegedly failed to "properly maintain said premises, failed to properly maintain, manage, control, keep in a safe condition said machine and allowed it to be [used] in such a condition that it endangered Plaintiff during his operation of the machine." LeFiell also "failed to properly provide guarding so as to prevent material from flying up into or out of the machine . . . ." Moreover, LeFiell allegedly breached a duty to properly "train, instruct, warn, educate and oversee . . . and . . . supervise . . . so as to allow the said swaging machine to be used in a manner and in a condition that created a dangerous and unsafe condition to the operator of the machine, including Plaintiff O'Neil Watrous."

Watrous also alleges a products liability cause of action. The form pleading seeks to recover for strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express written and oral warranties.

Watrous's spouse seeks damages for loss of consortium. She incorporated all the other causes of action alleged in the complaint, and alleges she has been deprived of Watrous's services in the care and management of their ...


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