Contractor Immune from Tort Liability AND Work Comp Liability

The Plaintiff suffered injuries when he fell through a skylight while working on a building owned by Defendant Schilling Acquisitions, Inc.  Schilling had contracted for the repair and renovation of the building with Defendant Lemoine Company.  Plaintiff brought a suit for damages against Schilling and Lemoine.  Lemoine filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal from litigation based on the argument that it was Plaintiff’s statutory employer and its sole responsibility to him was therefore under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.  The trial court granted summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed.

Schilling entered into a contract with Lemoine to make repairs to the roof of its building.  Lemoine entered into a subcontract with Vaughan Roofing & Sheet Metal, and Vaughan entered into a contract with Cormico, Inc. to perform Vaughan’s obligations under its contract with Lemoine.  Plaintiff was an employee of Cormico and suffered injuries when working on Schilling’s building under Schilling’s contract with Lemoine.

In claiming statutory employer status, Lemoine relied on the exclusivity language of the LWCA and its definitions of a “principal” and a “statutory employer”.  The LWCA states that with the exception of intentional acts, the remedies provided to workers in the LWCA are exclusive of all other claims for damages against his employer or any principal.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that Lemoine was Plaintiff’s statutory employer, and therefore immune from tort liability.  Lemonie would therefore be liable for workers’ compensation benefits, however, Plaintiff’s direct employer, Cormico, was insured and had paid all workers’ compensation benefits owed.  Therefore, Lemoine was immune from workers’ compensation liability because that liability fell on direct employer, and was also immune from tort liability because of its status as a statutory employer.

The Court noted that it was sympathetic to Plaintiff’s arguments, as the application of these principles, although theoretically designed to benefit the injured worker, actually benefits only the general contractor, who enjoys immunity from both workers’ compensation liability and tort liability.  Still, the Court was unable to identify authority that would call for a different result in this case.

Berard v. Lemoine Co., LLC