Workers’ compensation laws protect workers by providing them with a source of income if they’ve been hurt while on the job. However, those laws have been getting attacked in recent decades by business-friendly politics. The newest attack, however, has come not from politicians, but from the Supreme Court of the United States, which has sided again and again with corporations, stripping state courts of their ability to rule on important workers’ rights cases.
Recent Supreme Court Cases Strip State Court Jurisdiction
The two most recent cases that have shown the Supreme Court siding with large corporations against workers have been Bristol Myers-Squib v. Superior Court and BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell.
Both of those cases dealt with a state court’s ability to hear a case filed by an injured person against a corporation. In Bristol Myers-Squib, those people were non-California residents who were trying to join a California class action against a massive pharmaceutical company for injuries caused by one of their drugs. In Tyrrell, as we noted in an earlier blog, they were injured workers trying to file a workers’ compensation claim against a railroad in a state where the railroad did a lot of business.
In both cases, though, the Supreme Court sided with the corporation involved. The Court pointed to the corporation’s Due Process rights and put new and tighter limits on where corporations can be sued by limiting the jurisdiction of state courts to hear the cases.
Due Process and Jurisdiction for Workers’ Compensation Claims
Workers’ compensation lawsuits, like all other lawsuits, involve a plaintiff who has been hurt and a defendant who allegedly hurt them. Where the defendant can be sued, though, is a serious issue: If they could be sued anywhere, plaintiffs would file their claims in a court that was inconvenient for the defendant, pressuring them to settle to avoid a case made difficult by the court’s location. To fix this, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution limits where defendants can be sued by limiting which courts can exercise jurisdiction over them.
These rules are notoriously complex. However, when it comes to corporations, the general rule has been fairly simple: Corporations can be sued in the state in which they are incorporated as well as anywhere they have the kind of “continuous and systematic affiliations” that make them at home in the state.
Both Tyrrell and Bristol Myers-Squib, however, drastically increase the kinds of affiliations that are needed to make a corporation “at home” in a state. By raising this bar, it prevents numerous cases from being filed in that state against a corporation.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Jurisdictional issues like these are not the kinds of things that injured workers should have to think about. However, they can make it impossible to even file a workers’ compensation case against an employer, no matter how badly you have been hurt.
Having the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office can make a huge difference in your ability to avoid these legal pitfalls. Call our St. Joseph law office at (816) 875-9373 or contact us online if you’ve suffered a workplace injury in the St. Joseph or Kansas City areas.