The claimant was injured on a large construction project. As a result, his left leg had to be amputated above the knee. He recovered workers’ compensation benefits through his employer. He also sued one of the subcontractors on the job for his injuries. The jury awarded a total of $43 million in damages. However, the Fourteenth District Court of Appeals in Houston reversed and rendered judgment that the claimant take nothing from the subcontractor.Berkel & Company Contractors, Inc. v. Lee.
The court held that the subcontractor was entitled to claim the exclusive remedy defense because the subcontractor and claimant were co-employees. This determination was based on a provision in the Workers’ Compensation Act that deems the general contractor to be the employer of the subcontractor and the subcontractor’s employees if the general contractor enters into a written agreement with the subcontractor to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage to the subcontractor and the subcontractor’s employees. It was undisputed that the general contractor agreed to provide workers’ compensation insurance to all its subcontractors.
The court also clarified the application of the intentional-injury exception to the exclusive remedy defense. The court held that the evidence was insufficient to show that a vice-principal of the subcontractor knew to a substantial certainty that his conduct would bring about harm to a particular victim, or to someone within a small class of potential victims within a localized area. --James Loughlin, Stone Loughlin & Swanson, LLP
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