Previously, I discussed the concept of “statutory employer” in the framework of workers compensation. Again, this concept is based on language in Florida Statute s. 440.10(1)(b) that provides:
In case a contractor sublets any part or parts of his or her contract work to a subcontractor or subcontractors, all of the employees of such contractor and subcontractor or subcontractors engaged on such contract work shall be deemed to be employed in one and the same business or establishment, and the contractor shall be liable for, and shall secure, the payment of compensation to all such employees, except to employees of a subcontractor who has secured such payment.
The recent case of Slora v. Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In, Inc., 40 Fla. L. Weekly D 1966a (Fla.2d DCA 2015) discussed the meanings of the term “contractor” and “contract work” as used in this section:
The statutory terms “contractor” and “contract work” plainly and unambiguously posit a party performing work pursuant to a contract with another. Thus, to be immune from tort liability as a contractor, a defendant’s primary obligation in performing a job or providing a service must arise out of a contract.
Slora, supra (quotation and citation omitted).
In this case, a company operated airshows for the general public. To put on these airshows, the company had to fill out various forms and get approval from the Federal Aviation Authority. The Federal Aviation Authority required security to be provided at airshow events. The company put on an airshow and hired a security company to provide the security services for the event. During the airshow, however, an employee of the security company got hurt. This employee sued the company that put on the airshow for her injuries. The company argued it should be immune from such claim under workers compensation immunity that provides that contractors that comply with Florida Statute 440.10 are immune from tort liability (absent an intentional tort).
The trial court agreed with the company and granted summary judgment in its favor finding it was immune from liability and could not be properly sued by the injured employee of the security company. The appellate court reversed based on the meanings of “contractor” and “contract” as used in Florida Statute s. 440.10. Particularly, the appellate court held that there was no evidence that the Federal Aviation Authority contracted the company to put on the airshow event (or that the company undertook an implied obligation to the Federal Aviation Authority). Thus, if the company was not contracted by the Federal Aviation Authority, it could not be a “contractor” as used in the statute since it was not performing work pursuant to a contract with another. And, if the company was not a contractor per the statute, the company could not be immune from tort liability under workers compensation law.
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