Texas Court Dismisses Negligence Lawsuit Against Garbage Company, Based on Exclusive Remedy Doctrine of Texas Workers’ Compensation Law

Generally speaking, Texas law prevents those who are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits from filing a negligence lawsuit against their employer or co-workers. Of course, who exactly is or is not an “employer” can be the subject of great dispute.

Recently, a Texas appeals court was called upon to weigh in on the question of whether a garbage company to which a temporary staffing agency had assigned a worker was the worker’s “employer” for the purposes of the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation statutes.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case, the plaintiff was a man who was run over by a garbage truck. At the time, the plaintiff was employed by a temporary staffing company and was assigned to work with the driver of the garbage truck. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, the driver of the garbage truck and the waste disposal company that employed him, asserting claims for negligence and gross negligence. In the trial court, the defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the court, averring that the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act barred the plaintiff’s claims. The district court in Harris County sustained the defendant’s plea and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. He appealed.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas affirmed the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s case. Although the plaintiff argued that the defendants had failed to prove that the waste disposal company was his employer or that it was a subscriber of workers’ compensation insurance, the court disagreed. According to the court, an employee may have more than one “employer” under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, and each employer that subscribes to workers’ compensation insurance has a right to raise the exclusive remedy doctrine as a defense to an employee’s negligence claim.

In determining that the waste disposal company was the plaintiff’s employer, the court noted that the company directed and controlled the details of the plaintiff’s work, determined his hours and work schedule, set his service routes, and verified his time. At the time of his injury, the plaintiff was working for the company, at the company’s direction, on a garbage truck that was owned by the company and driven by its employee.

The court also disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention regarding the waste disposal company’s status as a subscriber to workers’ compensation insurance, holding that the company’s affidavits were sufficient. It was not required to present the actual insurance policy.

Do You Have Questions About an East Texas Motor Vehicle Accident Case?

Car and truck accidents can be devastating, causing immeasurable pain and suffering to those involved, not to mention tremendous medical expenses and, all too frequently, not only lost wages but also loss of future earning capacity. If you or someone close to you has been hurt because of a truck driver’s carelessness, Earl Drott Law can help. Schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable east Texas truck accident lawyer by calling (903) 531-9300 today. Our office serves Tyler, Smith County, and other locales in east Texas.

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