Joung Hyen Lee, Hyen Uk Lee, and Esther Lee are former employees of The Christian Herald, Inc., a corporation they allege is solely owned and was managed by their former boss, Jun Yang.
Joung Hyen Lee was a reporter, while Hyen Uk Lee and Esther Lee were administrative assistants. These three plaintiffs filed suit against Yang and the Herald asserting five wage-and-hour claims. Hyen Uk Lee asserted three additional causes of action (assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Yang, and premises liability against the Herald) arising out of alleged physical confrontations with Yang.
As to these claims, Hyen Uk Lee alleged that on two occasions in September 2012, Yang physically attacked her. Specifically, on September 13, 2012, Yang threw a cellular phone at her and grabbed her, causing injury to her arm and body. In addition, on September 20, 2012, Yang pushed Hyen Uk Lee against a door, causing her to hit her head on the corner of the door and lose consciousness. As to the tort claims against Yang, Hyen Uk Lee sought compensatory as well as punitive damages.
Yang argued the tort causes of action, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, failed to state a claim because workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for injury sustained in the workplace.
As to the two tort claims, the trial court noted Hyen Uk Lee alleged both incidents occurred in the workplace and concluded “the alleged facts do not fall outside of the scope of the exclusive remedy of the workers’ compensation statute. Nor is there an allegation of lack of workers’ compensation insurance as to these causes of action.”
Plaintiffs appeal from the judgment entered in favor of Yang after the trial court sustained his demurrer to the first amended complaint without leave to amend. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in part in the unpublished case of Lee v. Yang.
The Court of Appeal reasoned that “the Labor Code provides an employee may sue his or her employer, notwithstanding the exclusive remedy provision of workers’ compensation, ‘[w]here the employee’s injury – is proximately caused by a willful physical assault by the employer.” (§ 3602, subd. (b)(1); see also Soares v. City of Oakland (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1822, 1828 – 1829″
“Here, Hyen Uk Lee alleges that on September 13, 2012, Yang threw a cellular phone at her and grabbed her, causing injury to her arm and body. Hyen Uk Lee further alleges that on September 20, 2012, Yang pushed her against a door, causing her to hit her head on the corner of the door and to then lose consciousness. These allegations are sufficient to survive a demurrer on the cause of action for assault and battery.”