Worker's hire by authorized employee doesn't block temporary benefits
Case name: Campos-Brizuela v. Rocha Masonry, L.L.C., No. COA10-1571 (N.C. Ct. App. 10/04/11).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to benefits because he was an employee of a company when he was injured.
What it means: In North Carolina, a worker may be considered an employee of an employer even if the individual who hired the worker was not authorized to do so.
A worker became acquainted with an employee for a masonry company, which had a contract to spread concrete at a school. The employee hired the worker and gave him a ride to the school the next day. The worker said the employee told him he would be paid by a company check. At the site, the worker observed the employee giving orders to others. The employee directed the worker to clean a machine. His hand was crushed, and he suffered a "near amputation" injury. He underwent surgery but did not regain the use of his hand. He sought benefits from the company. The company denied the claim, asserting that the worker was not its employee. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the worker was entitled to benefits.
The court found that the worker was performing work for the benefit of the company when he was injured. The company argued that it should not be liable for workers' compensation because the employee did not have authority to hire the worker. The court disagreed, finding that the employee's actions established that the worker was an employee of the company. The court noted that the worker did not know the company did not authorize the employee to hire him.
The court also found that the worker was temporarily totally disabled. The causal relationship between his inability to use his hand and his work was clear. His treating physicians believed he was not capable of working. Despite the company's argument, the court declined to hold that a physician's opinion regarding a worker's ability to work had to incorporate an analysis of the job opportunities available to the worker. The court pointed out that the worker was uneducated and his work history was limited to unskilled labor.
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November 21, 2011
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