A federal court recently agreed to hear the lawsuit of a Long John Silver’s employee who was scalded with hot water after he tripped and the bucket he was carrying splashed. The employee, Joshua Shepherd, tried to have his case remanded to Jefferson County Circuit Court, but federal Judge Gina Groh of the Northern District of West Virginia denied it.
Shepherd seeks one million dollars for the injury, which occurred back in June 2011. The freezer at the local Long John Silver’s developed a water leak that led to ice forming on the floor. Rather than repair the leak, supervisors instructed restaurant employees to pour large buckets of hot water on the floor. The water, taken from the Rethermalizer, was heated at 197 degrees. When Shepherd slipped on the icy floor, he allegedly spilled scalding water on his stomach and legs, which resulted in second and third-degree burns on over 12% of his body. Even though Shepherd was given medication to deal with the pain, it allegedly remains so intense that it affects his ability to sleep, shower, use the restroom, get dressed, and care for his child.
In addition to alleging that his employer caused the injury, Shepherd’s complaint seeks to “pierce the corporate veil,” or impose liability on the individuals who run the corporation, rather than the corporation itself. The reasoning is often that if the corporation absorbs the liability, the individuals will have little incentive to change their practices. In order to successfully pierce the corporate veil, Shepherd would need to show (1) there exists such a unity of interest and ownership that there is no meaningful separation between the personality of the business and the personality of its member or members; and (2) that fraud or inequality could result if the veil is not pierced.
Meanwhile, Little Giant Enterprises, which operates Long John Silver’s in Charles Town, claims that piercing the corporate veil does not apply here because the corporation is a limited liability company in Alabama. At the same time, Shepherd pointed to a recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling on the state’s Uniformed Limited Liability Company Act, which stated that it does not afford complete protection to members of a limited liability company from a plaintiff seeking to pierce the corporate veil.
That one of the defendants in the case supposedly lives in Alabama is why, instead of being heard in state court, the case must be heard in federal court due to the fact that the plaintiff and defendant reside in different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. If you suffer an injury due to the actions of a corporation and are interested in piercing the corporate veil, contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney today.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.