Case name: Anderson v. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., No. S-13367 (Alaska 07/23/10).
Ruling: The Alaska Supreme Court held that a negligence suit brought against a pipeline operator by a worker employed by a contractor was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of Alaska's workers' compensation law.
What it means: In Alaska, negligence suits against project owners are barred under the exclusive remedy provision of the law. The definition of project owner is not narrowly construed to only include construction projects.
A worker was injured when a table fell on her head. The worker was employed by a contractor for the Alaska pipeline that provided catering services for employees of the pipeline operator. The table was owned by the operator of the pipeline, and an investigation concluded that the table was propped against a wall and unsecured for several months.
The worker received workers' compensation benefits and sued the operator for negligence. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment to the operator because the suit was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers' compensation laws.
Alaska law defines a project owner as "a person who, in the course of the person's business, engages the services of a contractor and who enjoys the beneficial use of the work." The worker contended that the operator was not a "project owner" under Alaska law because it was not a construction project and the operator was not immune from her suit. The court found that the operator clearly met the statutory definition of a project owner. The operator engaged the services of the contractor for catering services for employees who operate and maintain the pipeline.
The court also considered the legislature's goals in enacting the statute defining project owner, such as to prevent "double dipping," to expand workers' compensation coverage, and to provide protection from tort liability to those who are liable for securing workers' compensation coverage. The court noted that the worker's asserted narrow definition of a project owner would undermine the goals.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 11, 2010
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