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WA DOC Employee’s Federal Maritime Claims Not Precluded by State Law

The Court of Appeals for the State of Washington, Division II, has reversed and remanded a Department of Corrections (DOC) employee’s federal maritime claim against the DOC.

One day while Scott Maziar was riding the ferry home from his job at the McNeil Island Correctional Center, the captain of the ferry kicked a chair out from under Maziar’s feet, causing Maziar to fall and hurt himself.

Maziar received worker’s compensation benefits for his injuries, but he also sought damages against the DOC under “general maritime law” for negligence. The trial court dismissed Maziar’s maritime claims, holding that his exclusive remedy was through worker’s compensation.

The appeals court reversed, concluding that the state’s workers’ compensation law “cannot bar federal claims under the general maritime law.” The case was accordingly remanded for a trial on Maziar’s maritime claims. The court also rejected DOC’s sovereign immunity defense, holding that the legislature made the DOC liable for all of its tortuous conduct. See: Maziar v. State of Washington, 151 Wn. App. 850, 216 P.3d 430 (2009).

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Related legal case

Maziar v. State of Washington