The case of Woodson v. Rowland presents the issue of whether the family of an injured employee may bring a civil action (law suit) against the employer to recover damages for the death or injury of the employee, when coverage and compliance under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) exist. Before 1991, a family of a worker could not sue the worker’s employer for a wrongful act. In August of 1991 that all changed. This was all brought about because of an incident during a trench cave-in. The company, Rowland Utility, employed a man by the name of Woodson. When the workers of Rowland Utility were working in a underground trench, without a safety device known as a trench box, the trench collapsed and killed Woodson. Woodson was buried alive and died.
This result was an act egregious and intentional, because the company, Rowland, willingly did not build a trench box for the worker’s safety when the company knew they were putting the workers in great danger by not protecting the workers with a trench box.
Even though the courts normally had rejected the right to sue in a worker’s compensation case, because of the gross negligence of Rowland, the courts agreed the family should and would have a right to bring a civil suit upon the company. The court did this to retrieve compensation for the loss of a loved one of serious, life threatening injury. Society is in favor of this because most believe that when an employer knowingly creates a path of harm, they should be responsible for the results of their negligent actions.