Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Failure to do so may result in a fine by government regulators. Workers’ compensation – the exclusive remedy for employees against their employers for job-related injuries – is paid on a no-fault basis. That means workers who are injured in Florida don’t need to prove their employer acted in a manner that was negligent in order to collect compensation.
Third parties, meanwhile, can be liable and compelled to pay damages to the person injured on top of what he/ she receives for workers’ compensation – but only if the plaintiff can prove the third party negligent.
Many serious Florida work injuries involve some type of fault from a third party, whether that’s:
- A general contractor or property owner who fails to make sure the work site is free from an unreasonable risk of hazards (known or foreseeable);
- A negligent driver who strikes a work crew on the road;
- A product manufacturer that designed/ made/ sold a heavy machine that is unreasonably dangerous, even when operated as intended.
It’s important in these cases to make sure you’re working with an experienced work injury attorney because collection of workers’ compensation benefits can directly impact what one is able to collect from third parties (you can’t be paid twice for the same medical expenses, for example) and your workers’ compensation insurer or health insurer or hospital may be entitled to subrogation rights. All those entities are going to have experienced attorneys working or them. You need to make certain you have an attorney looking out for your best interests.
Ladder Fall Injury Prompts Third Party Liability
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 43 percent of all fatal falls and 20 percent of falls resulting in injury among workers involve ladders.
A case recently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, involved a worker who sued the owner of a hotel-casino had hired his employer as a subcontractor to clean kitchen hoods and vents. Defendant owned both the property and the defective ladder (and no one disputed the ladder was in unsafe condition).
The subcontractor had been unhappy with the ladder situation, raising the concerns three years earlier. It suggested a platform be built to allow for easier access. They even submitted a platform design. The hotel-casino rejected this, citing budget concern. So for the next several years, subcontractor’s employees – including plaintiff – would access the roof of the hotel via ladders that were leaned across the gap and tied to a railing on the roof. The parties dispute owns the ladders or set them up, but the hotel didn’t typically oversee the subcontractor’s daily work.
On the day in question, plaintiff climbed the ladder from the casino roof to the hotel roof. The ladder, however, slipped and he fell onto the gangway below, suffering serious injuries.
He received workers’ compensation through his employer, but now is seeking further damages in a third-party liability lawsuit against the hotel-casino. He alleged the company was generally negligent and specifically could be liable as the owner/ custodian of defective property. The trial court had ruled that while it was undisputed defendant owned the ladder, there was no dispute plaintiff failed to inspect the ladder and therefore he could not prove it unreasonably dangerous.
The federal appeals court reversed. Material questions remained about whether defendant could be liable for allowing the ladder defect to exist and persist.
If you suffer a fall at work, an experienced work injury attorney in Broward can help you sort your legal options.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Renwick v. P N K Lake Charles, LLC, Aug. 27, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District
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