You want to hear more on the POWER of statutory workers compensation immunity? Well, here it is, because as I have mentioned in the past, workers compensation immunity is powerful reinforcing the importance for contractors to ensure the subcontractors they hire absolutely have workers compensation insurance. Likewise, subcontractors want to ensure the subcontractors they hire also have workers compensation insurance.
In the case of Fisk Construction, Inc., v. Obando, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D2501b (Fla. 3d DCA 2017), a general contractor hired a roofer. The roofer subcontracted a portion of its work to a sub-subcontractor. A foreman of the sub-subcontractor than orally hired a laborer to perform a portion of the work the sub-subcontractor was responsible for performing. The laborer got hurt and a lawsuit was filed. The trial court ruled that the sub-subcontractor could not rely on workers compensation immunity as an affirmative defense finding that the sub-subcontractor waived and/or was estopped from asserting this defense. There appeared to be an initial denial of workers compensation benefits that was later remedied by the sub-subcontractor’s workers compensation insurer agreeing to pay the laborer’s hospital bills and medical visits. (Since the laborer was hired in an oral, handshake-type of deal, it could have been that executives of the sub-subcontractor had to investigate the laborer’s involvement at the project since he was not an employee of the company.)
On appeal, the Third District reversed holding that the sub-subcontractor could rely on workers compensation immunity as an affirmative defense. “[A]n initial denial of liability or [workers compensation] benefits does not automatically estop an employer from asserting workers’ compensation immunity [as an affirmative defense].” Fisk Construction, supra.
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