Ruling Could Impact Tort Claims For Contractors
A little overview is necessary here. Workers are shielded from filing lawsuits against their employers due to work-related injuries that are accidental. Contractors, on the other hand, either are employed by themselves or work for another company. Contractors are generally not shielded from filing workers’ compensation lawsuits against another company that commits some form of negligence that causes injury. However, a recent court ruling could change that.
In a rare move, an appellate court reversed its own decision which will allow the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case. The lawsuit revolves around a maintenance worker who worked at a power plant and was injured. The maintenance worker filed a lawsuit against the power plant, claiming that he was injured due to their negligence. Two workers were repairing a leak when an access door flew open and struck the workers with a fire-hose-velocity water. One worker fractured his spine, and the other was too injured to return to work.
After an investigation, OSHA fined the power plant $127,000 for “willful” violation of federal law. Earlier this year, another worker was killed at the same power plant.
The power plant raised the argument that it was the “statutory employer” of the maintenance workers who were injured in the accident. Thus, the workers would not have any remedy to sue the power plant. While the court sided with the workers in this case, they reversed the decision allowing the matter to be settled by the Florida Supreme Court. Under Florida law, contractors can be considered employees for the purpose of workers’ compensation matters. In cases where a subcontractor does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, the contractor would be expected to pay out those claims.
Initially, the court found that the power plant was not the “statutory employer” of the contractors. Upon reversing that decision, the case has been thrown up in the air. There was no explanation as to why the judges changed course. However, a ruling from a previous case indicated that even when a company has a state contract, they can still be considered a statutory employer. In this case, the power plant was contractually obligated to maintain its equipment. They sublet the obligation to another company. That company provided workers who were injured as a result of dangerous conditions on the power plant’s premises.
It is more than likely that the Florida Supreme Court will be asked to rule on this matter, largely because no one else wants to touch it. Firstly, it’s terribly confusing. Secondly, it doesn’t make sense. Thirdly, it imparts a duty to cover workers who are not employees of your company. Lastly, it allows bad actors who commit multiple OSHA violations to continue to commit major violations without serious penalties. If you think this company is saddened by OSHA’s $125,000 fine, you are wrong.
Essentially, the law is confusing already and needs to be clarified. That’s what the Supreme Court is for.
Talk to a Tampa Personal Injury Attorney Today
Some job-related injuries are compensable under the Florida’s personal injury laws. The Tampa injury attorneys at The Matassini Law Firm can help you file a work injury lawsuit against a negligent third party. Call today to learn more.