Electric cooperative immune from suit for death after ice storm
Case name: Reichwein v. Jackson Purchase Energy Corp., No. 2011-CA-001339-MR (Ky. Ct. App. 09/21/12).
Ruling: The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that an electric cooperative was entitled to immunity from a wrongful death suit brought by a worker's widow.
What it means: In Kentucky, up-the-ladder immunity from suit is provided to a contractor for injuries incurred by an employee of a subcontractor if the injury occurred while performing work that was a regular and recurrent part of the contractor's business.
Summary: A rural electric cooperative in Kentucky signed a mutual aid agreement with a Minnesota electrical cooperative to render assistance in maintaining their power systems. An ice storm in Kentucky caused widespread power outages. A worker for the Minnesota electrical cooperative was sent to Kentucky to assist. The worker was climbing an electric pole when it snapped, causing a transformer to crush his head. The worker died. The worker's widow received Minnesota workers' compensation benefits. The widow sued the Kentucky electric cooperative. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the Kentucky electric cooperative was immune from suit.
The court found that the widow's claims were precluded by Kentucky workers' compensation. The court pointed out that under the agreement the Kentucky electric cooperative would pay benefits if the Minnesota cooperative failed to provide coverage.
The court explained that the worker was injured while repairing an electrical line, which was the same duty routinely performed by employees of the Kentucky electric cooperative. Although the demands created by the ice storm required the Kentucky cooperative to seek outside assistance in restoring power, it remained a regular and recurrent part of its business. The court found that the Kentucky cooperative was the contractor and the Minnesota cooperative was the subcontractor at the time of the worker's accident, entitling the Kentucky cooperative to up-the-ladder immunity.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 17, 2012
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