Friday, April 17, 2009

Questioning workplace injury legislation

In the beginning of this month, the Texas Supreme Court upheld its decision that an injured employee of a contractor cannot sue a "premises owner," according to an USA Today article April 3. The court granted a rehearing, but stuck to its decision.

The court made the decision on the case of a turbine mechanic at an Entergy Gulf States plant in Bridge City, Texas. The worker was hurt in 2001 while repairing a leak on a hydrogen generator. Entergy covered the mechanic's injury with a workers' compensation policy that protected it from being sued. In its original 2007 ruling and again during the rehearing, the Texas Supreme Court expanded the immunity that was only applied to suits filed by direct employees to cover contractors as well, according to the article.

State legislators say they never meant the workers' compensation law to apply to contractors, and four lawmakers in December called for the court to reverse its decision.

The court was split 6-3 this time around; the 2007 ruling was unanimous.

Much debate has since been swirling around the issue. The Texas Association of Manufacturers applauded the decision, while Texas Watch, a consumer advocate group, called the ruling a kick in the teeth for workers and legislators.

What do you say as a glazing contractor? Does the court’s decision to protect companies from contractor lawsuits make sense or does it make it easy for premises owners to avoid responsibility?

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine


Anonymous said...

Workers Comp coverage takes care of the employee, additional lawsuits only help the attorneys and run up the cost to do business. Texas got it right, this was a good ruling.

Anonymous said...

The Texas Supreme Court has opted to put workers in danger by ignoring the law and the intent of lawmakers. The decision will allow oil, chemical, manufacturing, and construction companies to avoid legal responsibility when they fail to maintain a safe workplace. The decision also jeopardizes community and workplace safety, undermines corporate accountability, and ignores more than a decade of legislative intent.
Two bills, HB 1657 and SB 2063, have been filed this session to reverse the Court’s ruling.

Sahely Mukerji said...

Thanks folks, your comments represent the debate I referred to. I looked up the HB 1657 and SB 2063. HB 1657 "seeks to undermine the Texas workers’ compensation system by eliminating tort immunity for owners of a jobsite, currently accorded 'statutory employer' status by virtue of the Entergy decision, and by fostering third-party lawsuits," according to the American Insurance Association. And SB 2063 also "will eliminate tort immunity for owners of a jobsite who provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage and serve as their own general contractor," according to the Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
What happens if those bills pass? How would they affect our industry?

David hogard said...

Injuries in the work place are common and make up a large majority of the personal injury claims that are made. Employer's have to make sure the workplace is safe and without risk to health. Some steps taken to maintain this are to provide protective clothing where necessary, assess the risks that might be involved in work practices such as using a computer, provide adequate first aid equipment and facilities and keeping dust, fumes and noise under control.

Jay Parmar said...

If you or a loved one has been injured at workplace, you may be entitled to workers compensation benefits and the two most asked about is medical and wage replacement benefits.The injury must be reported to the employer's insurance company immediately.If not reported within the prescribed period, the workers compensation claim may be rejected. Employees may be required to submit medical records documenting the visits, or they may be asked to consult company recommended doctors in order to make sure their claims are valid. If your claim is wrongly denied by your employer, you may be able to pursue legal action to gain the compensation you require. You may be able to argue your case and get your employer to take a closer look at your worker's compensation claim. Visit workplace accidents for more information.