On October 26, 1962, an industrial accident caused the death of a young father working as a field engineer on a multi-million dollar public sewer construction project. On the morning of his death, while performing a measuring task, the deceased had occasion to kneel behind a heavily loaded dump truck. Unfortunately, the truck was accidentally driven back over the deceased, causing almost instantaneous death.
Four large construction companies undertook the sewer project as a joint venture. The deceased was employed by three of the co-parties, while the truck was allegedly controlled by other co-parties. The employer paid workmen's compensation death benefits; nevertheless, the present tort action was filed against the remaining co-parties, the truck driver and the truck owner. After denial of motions for summary judgment and directed verdict, the jury returned a verdict of no cause of action against the truck driver and the truck owner, but held the joint venture co-parties liable for $224,300. All parties claimed, as they claim in this Court, sufficient error to necessitate a new trial, while the co-parties to the joint venture filed for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The court granted the judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
Motions for a new trial often accompany cases with many participants and large awards. It is virtually impossible to examine the record of a complex trial without finding actions taken by the trial court that could have been improved upon. The ultimate question, however, is not whether a trial was free from error, but whether reversible error was committed. The record depicts courtroom confusion, primarily engendered by the divergent legal theories of numerous defense attorneys, but indicates no error impelling a new trial.
In pursuance of the public policy of more certain recovery for injured employees under the workmen's compensation provision, the legislature made workmen's compensation relief the exclusive remedy against employers for work-related accidents. CL 1948, § 411.4, supra; Balcer v. Leonard Refineries, Inc. (1963), 370 Mich. 531; Moran v. Nafi Corporation (1963), 370 Mich. 536. Under the act, however, an injured employee retains a tort action against a wrongful third party who injures an employee on the job. CLS 1961, § 413.15 (Stat Ann 1960 Rev § 17.189).
Affirmed. No costs.
LESINSKI, C.J., and CANHAM, J., concurred.