Special employer avoids liability for alleged fraudulent training document
Case name: Bowens v. Allied Warehousing Services, Inc., No. 11-0210 (W.Va. 06/15/12).
Ruling: The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed a worker's suit against his special employer.
What it means: In West Virginia, when a worker's main employer bills the special employer to compensate for expenses, including workers' compensation coverage, the special employer is immune from a lawsuit under workers' compensation.
Summary: A worker for a temporary employment agency was assigned to operate a forklift for a warehousing business. The worker was pinned between his forklift and another forklift. He suffered a crushed pelvis. He received temporary total disability benefits and permanent partial disability benefits from the agency. He then sued the business. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed the suit.
The agency was responsible for paying wages, payroll deductions, and unemployment and workers' compensation premiums for workers. The agency billed the business an amount more than the worker's actual wages to include the costs of employing him. The agency was supposed to provide experienced forklift operators, but the business implemented additional training and testing.
The worker asserted that his TTD benefits were terminated due to the submission of a fraudulent training document. He claimed that he was not certified to operate a forklift. The court explained that the training document was not material to the workers' compensation issue. Further, the training document was submitted by the agency, not the business. The medical evidence revealed that the worker was not totally disabled, that he was released to return to work by his doctors, and his doctors found he reached maximum medical improvement.
The worker also argued that the business could not claim it was immune from suit because he was an employee of the agency and not the business. Examining the employment relationship, the court found the business was the worker's special employer. The court found an implied contract of hire existed between the worker and business. At the time he was injured, he was working for the business. The business had the right to control the worker's work. He was supervised by employees of the business and was injured while using equipment owned by the business. The court said that since the agency billed the business, the agency, by proxy, paid for workers' compensation coverage. Therefore, the agency could share in the immunity from the suit.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 9, 2012
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