Submitted: April 10, 2019
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware
appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Jonathan B. O'Neill, Esquire, and Jennifer D. Donnelly,
Esquire, Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O'Neill,
P.A., Christiana, Delaware, for Appellants, John Henry and
Francis J. Jones, Jr., Esquire (Argued), and Wilson A.
Gualpa, Esquire, Morris James LLP, Georgetown, Delaware, for
Appellant, Charles Fritz.
E. Shevlin, Esquire, and William A. Crawford, Esquire
(Argued), Franklin & Prokopik, Newark, Delaware, for
Appellee, Cincinnati Insurance Company.
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
opinion is being issued in two cases that were consolidated
for purposes of oral argument, Henry v. Cincinnati
Insurance Co., No. 437, 2018, and Fritz v.
Cincinnati Insurance Co., No. 565, 2018. In
Henry, John and Darlene Henry appeal from a Superior
Court order granting Cincinnati Insurance Co.'s motion to
dismiss.In Fritz, Charles Fritz appeals
from a Superior Court order granting summary judgment in
favor of Cincinnati Insurance Co. (Cincinnati). Both cases
involve employees, John Henry and Charles Fritz, who
sustained injuries in automobile accidents while operating an
employer-owned vehicle during the course of their employment.
In both cases, the accidents were each allegedly caused by a
third-party tortfeasor. Both employees received workers'
compensation from their respective employers'
workers' compensation insurance companies pursuant to
Delaware's Workers' Compensation Act (the
Act). In each case, the vehicle operated by the
employee was covered by an automobile liability insurance
policy issued to the employer by Cincinnati. In addition to
their workers' compensation benefits, both Henry and
Fritz sought to recover underinsured-motorist benefits under
the terms of the Cincinnati automobile liability policies.
The Superior Court issued its order in Henry first;
it found that the exclusive-remedy (or
"exclusivity") provision in the Act, 19 Del.
C. § 2304, in effect at the time of the accident,
precluded Henry from receiving underinsured-motorist benefits
under the Cincinnati policy.Following that decision, the
Superior Court in Fritz granted Cincinnati's
motion for summary judgment on the same ground, explaining
that "[t]he Superior Court follows its prior decisions
except for urgent reasons and upon clear manifestation of
and Fritz contend that the Superior Court erred in finding
that the Act's exclusivity provision precludes them from
receiving underinsured-motorist benefits through the
automobile liability policy their respective employers each
purchased from Cincinnati. For the reasons that follow, we
agree that the Superior Court erred in both cases. The
Act's exclusivity provision does not prevent an employee
from receiving underinsured-motorist benefits provided by an
automobile liability policy that his or her employer has
purchased from a third-party insurance company.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
facts in both cases are straightforward and generally not
subject to dispute. On September 29, 2015, Henry was injured
in an automobile accident allegedly caused by Cynthia Sassa.
Henry settled his liability claim with Sassa's insurance
company for her policy limits. He then filed a claim with
Cincinnati for underinsured-motorist benefits provided by the
automobile liability policy covering the vehicle he was
driving. Cincinnati denied coverage on the ground that Henry
was not entitled to underinsured-motorist benefits because he
accepted workers' compensation benefits, which Cincinnati
contended were, under the Act's exclusivity provision, to
the exclusion of all other rights and remedies.
October 20, 2015, Fritz was injured in an automobile accident
allegedly caused by Alex Lopez. Fritz settled his liability
claim with Lopez's insurer for his policy limits. He then
filed a claim with Cincinnati for underinsured-motorist
benefits provided by the automobile liability policy covering
the vehicle he was driving. Cincinnati denied coverage on the
same ground that it relied upon in denying Henry coverage.
Henry and Fritz then brought their respective suits seeking
underinsured-motorist benefits from Cincinnati.
Superior Court's decision in Henry, which the
court in Fritz followed, relied on two prior
Superior Court cases. One was Simpson v. State, in
which the court held that the Act's then-effective
exclusivity provision prevented a state employee from
recovering underinsured-motorist benefits through the
State's self-insured automobile liability insurance
plan. The other was Robinson v.
State. In Robinson, which also involved
a state employee, the Superior Court judge agreed with
Simpson and further held that a September 2016
amendment to the exclusivity provision was not
retroactive. This Court affirmed Robinson on
review a grant or denial of summary judgment de novo
"to determine whether, viewing the facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, the moving party has
demonstrated that there are no material issues of fact in
dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." "Questions of law, including the
interpretation of statutes, are also reviewed de
time of the accidents involved in Simpson and
Robinson, as well as at the time of Henry's and
Fritz's accidents, the exclusivity provision in the Act
provided as follows:
Every employer and employee, adult and minor, except as
expressly excluded in this chapter, shall be bound by this
chapter respectively to pay and to accept compensation for
personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in
the course of employment, regardless of the question of