Resource: Case 20.3 in Employment Law, Chapter 20.
Write a 700- to 1,000-word executive summary in Microsoft® Word in the third person voice in which you analyze the case by addressing the following:
- Defend against or support the position of the plaintiff.
- Discuss if the plaintiff's injury was caused due to her own negligence or the defendant's negligence.
- As the Human Resources Director, recommend an ethical resolution to this case to the legal department and senior management.
Format the summary consistent with APA guidelines.
Use at least a minimum of three in-text citation sources within the summary. The sources must be identified in your APA correctly formatted References page.
The issues are whether the waiver signed by Ersaline Edwards barred her from recovering medical expenses she incurred when she sustained a broken leg while attempting to perform a physical test and whether OSHA covers lawsuits brought by individuals alleging negligence.
Collyer, United States District Judge.
In this civil action filed pro se, plaintiff Ersaline Edwards sues for $1 million in monetary damages, claiming that the defendants violated the Constitution and federal law in refusing to pay her medical bills for an injury she sustained while qualifying for a job with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DCDC”). She sues DCDC Director Odie Washington and Unknown Members of the D.C. Department of Corrections, “[i]ndividually and in their official capacity[.]”
Ms. Edwards alleges the following. In 2007, she “was called to begin qualification training [to become] a [DCDC] correctional officer.” She signed, among other papers, a document entitled “INFORMED CONSENT: LIABILITY RELEASE FORM.” Id. (capitalization in original). In August 2007, “during her training and qualification” to become a DCDC correctional officer, Ms. Edwards was “assigned to run down a flight of stairs in one of the old D.C. General Hospital Buildings. While running . . . [she] [lost] her balance and grabbed the railing on the side of the steps.” Because the railing was wet, Ms. Edwards “was unable to sustain her grip” and fell down the step. She “was in excruciating pain” and could not get up.
The D.C. Fire Department Rescue Squad was called and transported Ms. Edwards to Greater Southeast Community Hospital where she was told following an x-ray “that both bones in her leg were broken.” They gave [Ms. Edwards] some medication, strapped her leg[,] gave her some crutches[,] told her to make an appointment for a doctor in four or five days [and] then released [her].” The following day, when the pain had not subsided, Ms. Edwards’s father and brother took her to the emergency room at Prince George’s Community Hospital but, because the emergency room was “severely overcrowded,” they left and went to Georgetown University Hospital. The doctors at Georgetown performed an operation, “thereby putting [Ms. Edwards’s] broken bones back together[,]” and released her. Ms. Edwards “later received a bill from the D.C. fire and EMS Department [for] $268.00 . . . a bill from the Greater Southeast Community Hospital for $315.00 and $1405.00 [and] a bill from Georgetown University Hospital for $37,310.00. She “sought the defendants and their agents to pay her hospital and emergency Ambulance bills,” but they refused to do so.
She asserts that the defendants deprived her of due process and equal protection of the laws and violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”).
Ms. Edwards claims that Defendants deprived her “of a safe and healthy [work] environment” by “knowingly, intentionally and with malicious intent” failing to “adequately secur[e] the railing against moister [sic]” and that they, with the same intent, deprived her of “just compensation, due process and equal protection of the laws by failing to pay her medical bills, and compensating her for labor and injury for being hurt on their job and premises.” She further claims constitutional violations based on Defendants’ “training . . . in a shutdown possible [sic] condemned building and failing to insure her for potential injuries” and faults the District for “not compelling any other law enforcement agency with the Government to sign the same agreement that plaintiff was compelled to sign.” Ms. Edwards’s facts do not identify any rights secured by the Constitution, and the OSHA does not create a private cause of action.
The claim is quickly resolved because Ms. Edwards released the District from all liability arising from her “participation in the physical fitness examination” when she signed, in the presence of two witnesses, the liability release form.
The District of Columbia recognizes “prospective liability waivers for claims of negligent conduct” as long as the waiver is reasonably unambiguous and clear. By signing the single-page, two-paragraph consent form prominently captioned “INFORMED CONSENT: LIABILITY RELEASE FORM,” Ms. Edwards acknowledged and “agree[d] to accept” that she would undergo a
physical fitness examination  intended to test overall physical ability . . . [that] there are risks to my physical health and well-being inherent in the physical fitness examination [that I] voluntarily and knowingly agree to accept . . . [and that I] release and forever discharge the DCDC, the District of Columbia . . . [from liability] by reason of my participation in the physical fitness examination which is part of the application process for employment with the DCDC.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss. A separate Order dismissing the complaint in its entirety accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
The U.S. District Court held that OSHA does not address personal negligence suits and the waiver Ms. Edwards signed barred her recovery.
Are you in agreement with the court’s decision?
Was her injury caused due to her own negligence or to the DCDC’s negligence concerning the wet railing?
What do you believe would be an ethical resolution to this case?
Donita Taylor, Administratrix of Estate of Belford v. Comsat Corp.