Workers’ compensation is supposed to be the exclusive remedy for an employee injured at work — it protects employers from lawsuits. But that doesn’t stop some workers from trying to find the situations when comp isn’t the exclusive remedy.
Kenneth Scott was employed by Valley Mechanical, a Tennessee company. He was sent by the company to work on a demolition job in Texas. Valley Mechanical was hired by AMEC Kamtech as a subcontractor.
When they needed access to outside portions of the building that was being demolished, Scott and other workers would ride in a basket attached to a crane operated by Kamtech employees.
One day, when Scott and a co-worker gave the signal to be lowered, the basket didn’t descend slowly and steadily. Instead it went into a free-fall for about 60 feet before the crane operator stopped the basket suddenly just before it would have hit the ground.
Due to the force of the sudden stop, Scott suffered ankle, knee, spine and shoulder injuries. His co-worker broke a leg.
Valley Mechanical and Kamtech had an agreement that Valley’s workers’ compensation insurance would cover any of its workers’ injuries at the demolition project. Scott collected workers’ comp benefits from that policy.
However, he also sued Kamtech for negligence. Scott argued that Kamtech wasn’t subject to the Tennessee statute that made workers’ comp the exclusive remedy and that he should be allowed to seek damages under Texas law.
(Suing a general contractor and trying to move a case to another state are two common methods that workers use to try to get around the exclusive remedy of workers’ comp.)
Tennessee’s workers’ comp law states that if an employee suffers an injury outside of the state, workers’ compensation is still the exclusive remedy if:
- the contract of hire was made in Tennessee, or
- at the time of the injury, the injured worker was a Tennessee resident and there was a substantial connection between the state and the employer-employee relationship.
A federal court determined that both of those conditions applied in this case, so Scott could not sue Kamtech for damages on top of collecting workers’ comp benefits.
(Scott v. AMEC Kamtech, U.S. Circuit Crt. 6, No. 08-6342, 2/23/11)