Case name: Nelson v. Municipality of Anchorage, No. S-13775 (Alaska 12/23/11).
Ruling: The Alaska Supreme Court held that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for a worker's injury and dismissed his suit.
What it means: In Alaska, a municipality can be considered a "project owner" that is required to pay benefits to an injured worker if the worker's employer is a contractor that failed to secure the payments.
Summary: A worker for a subcontractor regularly had Saturdays off. On one Saturday, his employer called him at home and asked him to deliver drill bits to a construction site at a city. The worker arrived at the site and asked for directions on where to take the drill bits. He was directed to a room that had a hole in the floor covered in plastic. He fell 20 feet through the hole and suffered head trauma. His employer paid him workers' compensation benefits.
Six weeks later, it controverted further benefits, claiming that the worker was intoxicated at the time of the incident. The worker sued the city and the contractors. The city and contractors sought to dismiss the suit because of the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation. The Alaska Supreme Court held that workers' compensation held the worker's exclusive remedy and dismissed his suit.
The worker argued that the city could not be a "project owner" required to pay benefits if his employer failed to secure the payments. The court disagreed, explaining that the legislative history of the statute showed an intent to include the state and cities. The court said that the city was required to ensure that its contractors had workers' compensation insurance or it assumed the risk of being liable for benefits.
The worker also argued that he was deprived of workers' compensation benefits because his employer controverted benefits. The court pointed out that he never filed a workers' compensation claim, but the employer voluntarily paid benefits. Therefore, the worker could not show that he had no remedy for his injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 2, 2012
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