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Texas Workers’ Compensation as Exclusive Remedy for Work Injury

scaffolding-silhouette-1228347In Palmer v. Newtron Beaumont, the plaintiff appealed on the basis that the trial court shouldn’t have granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff was an employee of Motiva who sued the defendant (Newtron Beaumont) when a Newtron employee stepped on him at the Motiva plant while getting down from scaffolding. The plaintiff argued that it was Newtron’s negligence that caused his injuries.

Newtron filed a summary judgment motion, claiming that it and Motiva had entered into an agreement whereby Motiva was to provide workers’ compensation insurance and employer’s liability insurance for Newtron and its employees when they worked for Motiva. The Motiva policy covered all of Motiva’s employees, including the plaintiff. Newtron argued that Texas law made Newtron Motiva’s deemed employee, and therefore it was the plaintiff’s fellow employee under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. This would make it immune from the plaintiff’s effort to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

In its summary judgment motion, the defendant argued that Motiva kept the right to implement and maintain its workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance. The motion further argued that the plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of his employment with Motiva at the time of the injury, and his exclusive remedy under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act barred him from filing a civil suit for work-related injuries against any of his fellow employees (such as Newtron).

The defendant further argued that the workers’ compensation law also provided that a general contractor could be an employer of a subcontractor and its employees in cases in which a written agreement made it so under Tex. Labor Code Ann. § 406.123(a) and (e).

The plaintiff responded to the motion by claiming that Newtron wasn’t his employer and that the defendant couldn’t establish it was entitled to benefit from the workers’ compensation law’s exclusive remedy provision. He also argued that the negligent Newtron employee was not his fellow employee.

The appellate court explained that under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, recovering workers’ compensation benefits is a covered employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer or an agent or employee of the employer for work-related injuries or death. Under Section 406.123 of the workers’ compensation law, general contractors and subcontractors can agree that the general contractor will provide workers’ compensation coverage to the subcontractor and its employees. In such a case, the general contractor is considered the subcontractor’s employer, as well as the employer of the subcontractor’s employees.

However, the Labor Law provides certain exceptions. The subcontractor and its employees aren’t the general contractor’s employees when the subcontractor operates as an independent contractor and enters into a written contractor agreement that shows a relationship in which the subcontractor has the employer’s responsibilities for performing the work.

The appellate court concluded that the summary judgment evidence showed that Newtron and Motiva had agreed that Motiva would provide workers’ compensation coverage to Newtron’s employees. As a result, Newtron could receive the benefit of the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation law. The court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

If you are injured on a job with multiple contractors, you should consult an experienced Texas attorney with experience in work injury cases as well as workers’ compensation to seek the best possible outcome. Consult the experienced San Antonio attorneys at Carabin & Shaw for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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