See’s Candies v. Superior Court of California: Defining the Limits of the Exclusive Remedy Doctrine in Workers’ Compensation
JEREMY D. PERKINS, ESQ.
WALNUT CREEK, CALIFORNIA
The case of See’s Candies, Inc. v. Superior Court of California (2021) 87 Cal.Comp.Cases 21 raises interesting questions about the firmly accepted exclusivity provisions in California workers’ compensation law. When are workers’ compensation remedies the "exclusive remedy"? What is the nature of the workers’ compensation "grand bargain" that invokes this exclusive remedy? Who can be said to have entered into or enjoyed the benefits of this workers’ compensation grand bargain, which removes the need to prove employer fault while limiting the remedy available to the claimant?
In See’s Candies, the court considered the issue of whether the death of a man who was not employed by the defendant but was allegedly exposed to Covid-19 through his wife’s employment environment constituted grounds for a wrongful death claim against the wife’s employer. Specifically, Mrs. Matilde Ek worked for See’s Candies and allegedly contracted Covid-19 while employed in their candy assembly and packing line. Ostensibly, while Mrs. Ek recovered at home, the infection spread to her husband, Mr. Arturo Ek, who died a month later from the infection. Following Mr. Ek’s death, his wife and three daughters brought a wrongful death suit against See’s Candies, alleging that See’s failed to take measures to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 within its factory and, thus, negligently caused the infection and death of Mr. Ek.