The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act’s language has been given more specificity thanks to the Texas 14th Court Of Appeals’ ruling last week.
Houston-based civil trial and appellate firm Wright & Close LLP partners Thomas C. Wright and Jessica Zavadil Barger represented Berkel & Company Contractors, Inc., which had previously been found liable for $43.5 million in damages to a former worker whose workplace injury led to a crushed leg that had to be amputated above the knee. Wright and Barger successfully argued that the injured worker should be exempted from the Act because there was a general risk implied by the Berkel supervisor’s orders.
In its ruling, the court found that a defendant has to be substantially certain a worker could be injured in a specific way for the parameters of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act to be surpassed. Recovery for injuries beyond the Workers’ Compensation Act is not permitted if the actor simply knowingly permits a hazardous work condition, orders performance of an extremely dangerous job, or even willfully violates a safety statute, according to the opinion.
“In its very thorough opinion, the appellate court found that ‘intentional injury’ requires an intent to injure a particular person or a small class of people, not just a general knowledge that an activity is dangerous. Many plaintiffs attempt this way around the Workers’ Compensation Act, and this case should bring some clarity to the law,” stated Mr. Wright.
More information about the case, Berkel & Company Contractors, Inc., v. Tyler Lee and Leigh Anne Lee, No. 14-15-00787-CV, can be found here.