General Contractor Is the Staturoy Employer of Employees of Subcontractor Under Worker's Compensation Law

GENERAL CONTRACTOR IS THE STATUROY EMPLOYER OF EMPLOYEES OF SUBCONTRACTOR UNDER WORKER'S COMPENSATION LAW

By: Larry Leiby, Esq. and Harry Malka, Esq.

Malka &. Kravitz, P.A.

About the Author: Larry Leiby, Esq. was the founder and first chairman of the Florida Bar Construction Law Committee in 1976. He is the author of the Florida Construction Law Manual. He is Board Certified in Construction Law and was on the Construction Law Certification Committee that creates and grades the tests for construction law board certification. He was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the Florida Bar Construction Law Committee and teaches construction law at the Florida International University College of Law. He can be reached at leiby@mkpalaw.com. For more information, please visit www.mkpalaw.com.

In Catalfumo Construction, LLC. Vs. Varella, WL 624138 (Fla. 3 rd DCA, Feb. 24, 2010) Linwood Varella ("EMPLOYEE") sued Catalfumo Construction ("GENERAL CONTRACTOR") for negligence arising out of personal injury he suffered when he fell over some cement runoff when leaving the construction site.

EMPLOYEE was the employee of the electrical subcontractor ("RAMS") on the project. EMPLOYEE brought a workers' compensation claim against RAMS. However, RAMS's insurance carrier denied compensability on grounds that the accident was not within the course and scope of the employment. EMPLOYEE then sued GENERAL CONTRACTOR, for negligence. In response to the lawsuit, GENERAL CONTRACTOR raised the defense that the claim was barred by the exclusivity of the workers' compensation statute. The trial judge disagreed and denied GENERAL CONTRACTOR's motion for summary judgment. GENERAL CONTRACTOR appealed.

The issue on appeal revolved around whether GENERAL CONTRACTOR was entitled to workers' compensation immunity, as the statutory employer. Upon analysis of Section 440.11, Florida Statutes, the Court concluded that GENERAL CONTRACTOR was the statutory employer and, as such, was obligated to provide workers' compensation insurance when the Subcontractor (RAMS) did not. As a consequence of RAMS's denial of EMPLOYEE's claim, GENERAL CONTRACTOR was required to provide workers' compensation to EMPLOYEE. The Court of Appeals reversed the Trial Judge, concluding that because GENERAL CONTRACTOR had the duty to provide coverage in the absence of coverage by RAMS, GENERAL CONTRACTOR was protected from suits-at-law such as this negligence cause of action.

This case illustrates that where workers' compensation is in place, workers' compensation insurance is the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained by the employee within the course and scope of the employment.