Two companies win contractor immunity argument in worker injury case

By Mary Ann Magnell | Sep 5, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently granted motions for summary judgment filed by Darana Hybrid Inc. and W&H Systems Inc. in a workplace injury case.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, in the Aug. 30 ruling, also dismissed with prejudice claims against the two companies made by Joshua Donahue in his personal injury case.

According to court filings, Donahue’s injuries occurred while installing a conveyor system at Republic National Distribution Co (RNDC). Donahue was struck in the head by the blades of an unguarded overhead fan and filed a suit on June 8, 2016, against RNDC, W&H Systems and Darana, asserting claims of negligence and premises liability. 

RNDC had contracted with W&H Systems to install the conveyor system and W&H systems then contracted with Darana to provide the electrical work on the installation. Donahue worked for American ManPower Services Inc. (AMPS), who had an outstanding contract with Darana to provide labor. 

Milazzo found that Darana met “every element necessary to establish immunity under the two-contract theory” in the case. 

The elements, according to the 12-page court document, noted that Darana contracted to execute work for a third party, that the work was "a part of (Darana’s) trade, business, or occupation," and that Darana contracted with an employer "for the execution by or under the (immediate employer) of the whole or any part of the work undertaken" by Darana. 

Additionally, it included proof that “‘the services or work provided by the immediate employer (were) contemplated by or included in a contract between Darana and anyone other than the immediate employer.”

W&H Systems further submitted evidence that it contracted with RNDC. 

Milazzo said there was “no dispute of material fact as to any of the elements of statutory employer immunity for defendant W&H Systems.”  

The motions filed by Darana and W&H Systems asserted immunity as the plaintiff’s statutory employers. According to the document, the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Law (LCWL) “provides exclusive remedy” against employers for employees “injured in the course and scope of their employment.”  The “resulting immunity” from tort liability extends to “principals that contract with another entity to perform part of the principal’s work.” Both companies asserted immunity under the two-contract theory. 

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