Oil Platform Worker’s Lawsuit Tossed Under Longshoreman’s Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act fills a void under the law concerning workers’ compensation, jurisdictional issues related to offshore occurrences, and tort lawsuits against companies. In Texas, an employee is allowed to file a lawsuit against any company that doesn’t carry workers’ compensation. However, there is some question under the law as to whether an employee who files a workers’ compensation claim with their own company is allowed to file a tort lawsuit against another company that negligently caused their injury. Technically, these lawsuits are allowed to go forward here in Texas and elsewhere. However, The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides for an “exclusive” remedy.
Recently, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision to prevent an injured mechanic from filing a lawsuit against a company that hired his company to perform maintenance. The worker was compensated by his own company’s workers’ compensation policy but wanted also to file a lawsuit against the negligent company that caused his injury. In this article, we’ll discuss why the verdict did not go his way.
A worker employed by Waukesha Pearce Industries in Houston was assigned to work on an oil platform owned by Fieldwood Energy Services. The worker injured his back when, after responding to an alarm, he slipped and fell on some oil. The worker was paid benefits, but it was unclear whether those benefits were paid through Texas’ workers’ compensation program or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation program.
The question is important because the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act defines the one and only remedy to on-the-job injuries available to injured workers. Texas’ workers’ compensation program is less stringent. Companies may or may not carry workers’ compensation insurance, but if they don’t, they are required to pay out on injury lawsuits filed against them alleging negligence. The workers’ own company paid him benefits through their own workers’ compensation program.
The jury was asked to determine if the worker was a “borrowed employee” or a contractor. The jury did not reach a conclusive decision. The judge then ruled that the worker was a “borrowed employee” and threw out the claim after the jury had reached a decision that the defendant was 50% responsible. But since the worker was a borrowed employee, his exclusive remedy for compensation is under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and it doesn’t matter whose company paid the benefits, so long as he received benefits.
Determining whether or not an individual is a “borrowed employee” or a “contractor” depends on nine discrete variables that are assessed by a judge or jury. These include elements like “under whose direction was the worker working”, “who provided the tools”, and “who paid the worker”. In this case, the judge determined that enough of the elements were present to define the worker as a borrowed employee and deny his right to file a lawsuit.
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If you’ve been injured on the job or otherwise, you are entitled to file a lawsuit to recover damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. Call the Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers today to learn more about how we can help.