Employees' rights against employer: where an employee is injured in the course and scope of his or her employment, workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy of the employee and his or her dependents against the employer. (Lab. Code, §§ 3600, subd. (a), 3602.) The “exclusivity rule” is based upon a presumed compensation bargain: “the employer assumes liability for industrial personal injury or death without regard to fault in exchange for limitations on the amount of that liability. The employee is afforded relatively swift and certain payment of benefits to cure or relieve the effects of industrial injury without having to prove fault but, in exchange, gives up the wider range of damages potentially available in tort.” (Shoemaker v. Myers (1990) 52 Cal.3d 1, 16.)
There are, however, limited statutory exceptions to the exclusivity rule that authorize the injured worker to seek to augment the workers’ compensation benefits by bringing an action at law for damages against the employer. (See §§ 3602, 3706, & 4558.) One such exception is found in section 4558, the “power press exception.” Section 4558 authorizes an injured worker to bring a civil action for tort damages against his or her employer where the injuries were “proximately caused by the employer’s knowing removal of, or knowing failure to install, a point of operation guard on a power press,” where the “manufacturer had designed, installed, required or otherwise provided by specification for the attachment of the guards and conveyed knowledge of the same to the employer.” (§ 4558, subds. (b) & (c).)
In this case, a worker injured while operating a power press without a point of operation guard brought a civil suit against his employer under the power press exception that included a claim for loss of consortium on behalf of his spouse, predicated on the facts allegedly establishing the section 4558 violation. The issue before us on review concerns only the viability of the spouse’s loss of consortium claim. Section 4558 contains express language limiting standing to bring an action under the power press exception to the employee “or his or her dependents in the event of the employee’s death.” (§ 4558, subd. (b).) Here, the worker’s injuries did not result in his death. The Court of Appeal recognized the spouse’s claim for loss of consortium fell outside the express language of section 4558 and was therefore unauthorized under the power press exception to the exclusivity rule. The court further recognized the claim was barred at law by the derivative injury doctrine because it was derivative of, and therefore dependent on, the employee’s physical injury or disability, and was for that reason subject to the workers’ compensation law’s broad exclusivity rule. (Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 991, 997 (Snyder).)
The Court of Appeal nonetheless concluded the spouse’s loss of consortium claim as pleaded in the civil action remained viable. The court believed that because section 4558 authorized the injured worker to sue his employer in a court of law for his power press injuries, the claims of both the worker and his dependent spouse fell outside the workers’ compensation system altogether, and accordingly, the exclusivity rule did not apply or bar the spouse’s loss of consortium claim. We granted the employer’s petition for review to determine whether the spouse of an injured worker may claim damages for loss of consortium in an action at law brought by the injured worker against the employer pursuant to section 4558.
As we shall explain, notwithstanding the availability of a civil cause of action for workers who suffer power press injuries, claims arising from the industrial accident that caused those injuries fundamentally remain compensable under the workers’ compensation system. Consequently, under settled principles of workers’ compensation law, the exclusivity rule bars a dependent spouse’s claim for loss of consortium. The employer’s demurrer to the loss of consortium cause of action below therefore should have been sustained. Accordingly, we shall reverse that portion of the judgment of the Court of Appeal denying the employer’s petition for writ of mandate to overturn the order overruling its demurrer to the loss of consortium claim, and otherwise affirm (Cal. S. Ct., S192759, 20.08.12, LeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct.).