Statutory employer dodges liability in suit, workers' compensation claim
Shaw v. Mega Industries, Corp., No. WC75501 (Mo. Ct. App. 07/30/13).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a contractor was immune from a suit brought by a subcontractor's injured worker.
What it means: In Missouri, a statutory employer is immune from a suit brought by an injured worker even if the statutory employer faced no liability for workers' compensation because the injured worker was insured by his immediate employer.
Summary: A worker for a subcontractor at a construction project was injured when a telephone booth that was being moved by a coworker fell on him. He sustained multiple fractures of his feet and lower legs and underwent surgeries. He filed a workers' compensation claim against the contractor and subcontractor. A settlement was reached between the worker and subcontractor. Subsequently, the worker sued the contractor. The Missouri Court of Appeals granted summary judgment to the contractor, finding that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for the worker's claims against the contractor.
The worker recognized that the contractor qualified as his statutory employer because of its relationship with the subcontractor. He argued that the contractor faced no liability for his workers' compensation claim because the subcontractor carried workers' compensation insurance. The court explained that since the contractor was an "employer" of the worker, it was released from liability. Actual payment of workers' compensation benefits was not a prerequisite for immunity under the exclusive remedy provision. The court said that if it allowed the worker to sue the contractor the subcontractor would be subrogated to the claim, "turning the order of liability upside-down."
The court explained that the contractor was subject to liability "to furnish compensation." However, the contractor had a defense to liability because the subcontractor was insured. A worker's failure to prove a winning workers' compensation claim does not make the employer liable in a suit.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 28, 2013
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