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Media Alerts - Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. -- Fourth Circuit
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April 4, 2015
  Demetres v. East West Construction, Inc. -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Fourth Circuit Declines to Reconsider Restrictive Workers' Compensation Decision

Areas of Law: Conflicts of Law, Workers' Compensation

Issues Presented: Whether Virginia was required by the Full Faith and Credit Clause to apply the workers' compensation laws of North Carolina, where an employee of a North Carolina general contractor was injured while performing work in Virginia.

Brief Summary: James Thomas Demetres is a resident and citizen of North Carolina. He was also an employee of North Carolina general contractor, Ashland Construction Co. ("Ashland"). Ashland hired East West Construction, Inc. ("East West") as a subcontractor for a project in Virginia and sent Demetres to Virginia to supervise that project. During his time in Virginia, Demetres was severely injured in an accident when an employee of East West backed over him with a bulldozer.

Demetres returned home, and received workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina through his employment with Ashland. Subsequently, he filed a $100,000,000 personal injury suit against East West in the Eastern District of Virginia. East West moved for dismissal arguing that the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act barred Demetres from bringing a tort suit against them. The district court agreed.

On appeal, Demetres argued, among other things, that the Full Faith and Credit Clause dictated that the court should apply North Carolina law (which did not prevent the suit), because North Carolina was the state in which Demetres received workers' compensation benefits.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Fourth Circuit confirmed that Virginia law controls claims arising out of employment or accidents in Virginia. Although under North Carolina workers' compensation law Demetres would not be barred from bringing suit, the Fourth Circuit denied Demetres' position, following its decision in Garcia v. Pittsylvania County Service Authority, 845 F.2d 465 (4th Cir. 1988). The Garcia court interpreted the Supreme Court's decision in Carroll v. Lanza, 349 U.S. 408 (1955), to mean that full faith and credit principles did not require Virginia to relax its more restrictive laws in all workers' compensation cases involving differing state compensation statutes.

Demetres argued that Garcia was wrongly decided, and the Fourth Circuit noted the presence of express limiting language in Carroll. However, the panel found that it was bound to follow Garcia because only the full court siting en banc can overrule a panel decision. For the time being, the court concluded Demetres' personal injury action was barred under Virginia law because his injury occurred in Virginia while he was working for a Virginia employer.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Niemeyer and Gregory, and Senior Judge Davis

Argument Date: 10/30/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 01/15/2015

Docket Number: Case No. 14-1180

Case Alert Author: David Arnold, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Earl Stanley Murphy, MOODY LAW FIRM, Portsmouth, Virginia, for Appellant. Danielle D. Giroux, HARMAN, CLAYTOR, CORRIGAN & WELLMAN, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Stanley P. Wellman, HARMAN, CLAYTOR, CORRIGAN & WELLMAN, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Gregory

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/04/2015 03:03 PM     4th Circuit  

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