According to a report from Business Insurance, a California appellate court has ruled in favor of a private company—finding that the state’s exclusive remedy presumption for workers’ compensation insurance prohibits the employee from filing a personal injury claim against that contractor. Here, our Sacramento workers’ compensation defense lawyer offers a more detailed account of the case and explains the legal protections that workers’ compensation coverage provides to employers.

Decision: Employee Cannot Go Forward With Personal Injury Lawsuit

A company called SMC Contracting, Inc. entered into an agreement with another firm called Tyco Simplex Grinnell, Inc. Under the terms of the contract, Tyco Simplex Grinnell would install a fire sprinkler system as a development site in South Lake Tahoe, California. An employee of Tyco Simplex Grinnell named Tommy Ray McCullar was one of the workers on the project.

Mr. McCullar arrived at the worksite one day to find a large amount of ice covering the grounds. The ice contributed to a fall accident that he sustained. He suffered significant injuries. Mr. McCullar filed a personal injury lawsuit against SMC Contracting, Inc. However, a California court held that the Privette Doctrine prevented Mr. McCullar from filing a personal injury lawsuit against the firm. It held that his remedy was against his employer in the form of a workers’ compensation claim.

Understanding California’s Privette Doctrine

A workers’ compensation remedy is generally the sole claim an injured employee has against their employer. In California, injured workers do have the right to file third-party liability claims against negligent parties other than their employer. However, California’s Privette Doctrine puts significant limitations on an injured worker’s ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against a general contractor when he or she is employed by a subcontractor.

The Privette Doctrine holds that a general contractor—such as SMC Contracting, Inc. was in this case—can only be held liable for injuries sustained by the employee of a subcontractor if there was an affirmative act or clear omission that caused the accident. The ice on the grounds of the development site could be deemed a safety hazard.

However, under the Privette Doctrine, the subcontractors—in this case, Tyco Simplex Grinnell, Inc.—were responsible for dealing with that ice. Indeed, the court found that the worker’s employer, Tyco Simplex Grinnell, Inc., had both the authority and responsibility to remove hazardous ice. As such, the subcontractor bore liability for the fall accident through its workers’ compensation coverage. The general contractor does not bear liability.

Get Help From Our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Defense Lawyer Today

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Sacramento workers’ compensation defense attorneys are standing by, ready to take action to help clients find the best resolution to their cases. If you have any questions about California’s bar on personal injury lawsuits for covered workers, we can help. Connect with us today to schedule your fully confidential case evaluation. With law office locations in Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield, we provide workers’ compensation defense services throughout the region.