Middlekauff v. Allstate Insurance Co.

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The plaintiff sued her former supervisor and former employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress due to her supervisor’s harassment, which consisted of sexist and belittling remarks over an extended period of time. The lower courts held that her claim was barred by the Virginia’s Workers Compensation Act, which supplies remedied for injuries by accident, arising out of and in, the course of the employment or occupational disease but excluded any other remedies for such injuries. The issue before the Court was whether a pattern of harassment constituted the type of injury for which a lawsuit had to be filed under the Workers Compensation Act only. In reversing the lower courts’ decision, the court overruled its prior decision in Haddon v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 389 S.E.2d 712 (Va. 1990), which held that a pattern of sexual harassment constituted an “injury by accident” and thus could only be brought under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Court reasoned that Haddon was irreconcilable with long-established precedent holding that a “gradually incurred” injury over an extended period of time did not constitute an “injury by accident” and was thus not covered by the Act’s exclusion of other remedies. The Court’s decision allowed for a tort cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on a pattern of sexual harassment in the workplace.



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