Washington Case Law Update: When Does Employer Immunity Protect the Employee?

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When Does Employer Immunity Protect the Employee?

From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: Washington’s workers’ compensation statute provides employers and coemployees immunity from lawsuit.  But when does immunity apply to coemployees?  Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer:  In this case arising out of an injury that took place on company property, the Washington Supreme Court held that a coemployee must demonstrate he was performing work for the employer at the time of injury for employer immunity to apply.  The case provides clarity as to when employer immunity applies to employee injuries caused by coemployees.

Entila v. Cook, No. 92581-0, Washington Supreme Court (January 12, 2016)

Gerald Cook (“Cook”) and Francisco Entila (“Entila”) were both employees of the Boeing Company (“Boeing”).  One morning in February 2010, Cook finished work and walked to his vehicle in an employee parking lot.  While driving his personal vehicle out of the lot and onto a Boeing access road, which was located on Boeing’s property and maintained by Boeing, he struck and injured Entila as he walked across the road.  Entila received workers’ compensation benefits for his injuries and filed suit against Cook for negligence.

Cook moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was immune from the suit under the Industrial Insurance Act (“IIA”), Washington’s workers’ compensation statute.  Cook asserted that because there was no issue of fact that he was acting in the course of employment, Boeing’s employer immunity shielded him from liability.  The trial court granted his motion and dismissed the lawsuit.  Entila appealed.  On review, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Cook was not immune under the IIA because he did not establish that he was acting in both the scope and course of employment.  Cook appealed.

On appeal, Cook argued that the IIA definition of “acting in the course of employment” included “time spent going to and from work on...

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