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Williams v. Buraczynski

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 19, 2017

CHRISTOPHER LEA WILLIAMS
v.
JOHN BURACZYNSKI

          Session May 22, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Knox County No. 2-10-16 William T. Ailor, Judge

         This appeal arises from a motor vehicle accident. Christopher Lea Williams ("Williams") and John Buraczynski ("Buraczynski") both worked for Progression Electric, LLC ("Progression"). In January 2015, Buraczynski was driving his vehicle with passenger Williams as part of a carpool arrangement when they were involved in an accident. Williams subsequently claimed he was entitled to and received workers' compensation benefits. Williams then sued Buraczynski, personally, in the Circuit Court for Knox County ("the Trial Court"). Buraczynski filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Williams' exclusive remedy was in workers' compensation. The Trial Court granted Buraczynski's motion. Williams appealed. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Henry S. Queener, III, Nashville, Tennessee, and, Jennifer K. O'Connell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Lea Williams.

          Thomas M. Horne, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, John Buraczynski.

          D. Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr. and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Background

         This case arises from a motor vehicle accident involving two co-workers. On January 12, 2015, Buraczynski was driving Williams as part of a carpool arrangement. Both worked for Progression. The two co-workers were involved in an accident in which Williams was injured.

         Williams sought and obtained workers' compensation benefits from Progression or its insurance carrier. Neither Progression nor its insurance carrier denied that Williams was in the course and scope of his employment with Progression at the time of the accident. In January 2016, Williams then filed suit against Buraczynski and Progression alleging that Buraczynski was negligent in operating the vehicle at the time of the accident. Progression filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim asserting that Williams' claim against it was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-6-108(a). Williams thereafter nonsuited his claim against Progression and the case proceeded against Buraczynski. In May 2016, Buraczynski filed a motion to amend his answer to add the defenses of judicial and equitable estoppel. The motion was granted. According to Buraczynski, Williams should not be allowed to claim in this action that he was acting outside the scope of his employment at the time of the accident when Williams already had applied for and received workers' compensation benefits. Buraczynski instead argued that Williams' exclusive remedy is his workers' compensation.

         In March 2016, Buraczynski filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Trial Court granted following a June 2016 hearing on the motion. The Trial Court stated as follows in its oral ruling, which was incorporated into its July 2016 final order:

The Court having reviewed the record and the motion, as well as the response and the affidavits that have been filed, it is of the opinion that the following are the undisputed facts:
The Plaintiff and Defendant, John Buraczynski, were riding together in Mr. Buraczynski's vehicle on their way to work. During that ride at some point, the vehicle was involved in a collision and the Plaintiff was injured.
Later the Plaintiff made representations to his employer that he was acting in the course and scope of his employment and that the employer made a determination that the Plaintiff was in the course and scope of his employment and as a result, Workers' Comp benefits, Workers' Comp benefits were paid to the Plaintiff by the employer's Workers' Compensation carrier.
The Plaintiff has now filed an affidavit in this matter wherein he makes statements that at the time of the wreck, he was not on Progression Electric, LLC's premises at the time of the wreck; that he was not in a vehicle owned by Progression Electric, LLC; that he was not on the clock for Progression Electric, LLC; and he was not doing what he was employed by Progression Electric, LLC to do.
The Court is of the opinion that in making a claim for Workers' Compensation benefits that the Plaintiff made admissions that are contrary to his affidavit and that TCA ...

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