WC Alert: Maine Supreme Court Addresses Limits of Dual Persona Doctrine
The immunity provision in the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act, section 104, provides, “An employer who has secured the payment of compensation . . . is exempt from civil actions . . . involving personal injuries sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of employment.” However, under the dual personal doctrine, it may be possible for an employee to bring a negligence claim against the employer if it possesses a second “persona” independent from its status as employer.
In Clark v. Benton, LLC, 2018 ME 99, the employee of a lumber company was injured while working on property owned by Benton, LLC, a real estate holding company owned by the president/vice-president of his employer. The employee filed a negligence suit against Benton, LLC.
Benton, LLC, argued that once the employee’s employer secured workers’ compensation for him, section 104 of the Act immunized the employer and Benton, LLC, from the negligence action because those entities were “essentially one and the same.” The Law Court disagreed, holding “a property owning-entity is not afforded immunity by the Act by the simple facts that one of its officers is also an officer in the entity that employs the injured person, the employer has secured compensation according to the Act for the injured person, and the property-owning entity allows the employer to use its premises for business purposes.”