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Rainer v. Union Carbide Corporation

United States Court of Appeals
402 F.3d 608 (6th Cir. 2005)


The Paducah Gas Diffusion Plant (PDGP) was a uranium processing plant owned by General Electric (GE) (defendant). It was operated by Union Carbide Corporation (Union) (defendant), Martin Marietta (Martin) (defendant), and Lockheed Martin Utilities Services (Lockheed Martin) (defendant). As of 1959, PDGP processed uranium and yielded hazardous byproducts in quantities “well beyond the amount considered safe for a plant the size of PDGP.” The plant employed 1,800 employees at any given time. The lower-level employees were kept ignorant about the presence of such high amounts of hazardous byproducts. Additionally, plant owners and operators frequently disregarded workers’ safety. Rainer (plaintiff), an employee, and three other employees brought suit against the owner and operators based on their exposure to harmful substances at PDGP. However, at the time of suit, no plaintiffs displayed any signs of actual physical harm. The district court dismissed the claims brought by all plaintiffs on the grounds that no present harm had been shown, and that the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for claims brought by employees against their employers. The act typically operated to exclude employers from other forms of liability once they provided compensation to employees. Rainer and the other plaintiffs argued their case fell under an exception to the act which reserved a cause of action to a worker who is injured “through the deliberate intention of his employer to produce such injury or death.” A “deliberate intention” included “conduct undertaken with the knowledge that it will produce a certain result, or is substantially certain to do so.” All plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their case.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Gilman, Circuit Judge)

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