A warehouse worker died from a disease caused by exposure to pigeon droppings. Is this covered by workers’ comp, or was his widow allowed to sue the company for wrongful death?
Alfredo Castillo worked in an open-air warehouse for Caprock Pipe & Supply in New Mexico.
Castillo contracted psittacosis, an infection caused by bacteria found in bird droppings. He was exposed to pigeons and their droppings in the warehouse.
His widow and family brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Caprock. The company argued the case came under the exclusive remedy of the state’s workers’ comp law.
A trial court ruled in the company’s favor and threw out the case. Castillo’s family took the case to a state appeals court.
The court had to determine whether Castillo’s death arose out of and in the course of his employment.
Castillo’s family was able to show the warehouse worker contracted the deadly disease while performing his job duties. Therefore, the injury occurred in the course of his employment.
The court also found the injury arose out of his employment because Castillo was clearly subject to greater risk of contracting psittacosis by working in the warehouse.
For those reasons, the appeals court ruled workers’ comp was the exclusive remedy in this case. Castillo’s family could not proceed with its wrongful death lawsuit.
This case shows that, even though dealing with the expense of workers’ comp insurance can be frustrating, having the coverage saved this company from facing a huge lawsuit.
What do you think about the ruling in this case? Let us know in the comments below.
(Castillo v. Caprock, Court of Appeals of NM, No. 31,499, 5/30/12)