Intentional Torts and Florida Workers’ Compensation Law
One of the purposes of workers’ compensation laws is to eliminate a lot of legal red tape, so that workers can get necessary treatment for their work injuries in a timely manner. In the case of relatively minor injuries, this works well for everyone; for most working people, an injury serious enough to require medical treatment (even if it is minor enough that the worker makes a full recovery can be financially disastrous. Meanwhile, it is in the employer’s interest for the worker to get treatment and come back to work quickly, and everyone wins if no one has to pay for legal representation to argue about who is legally responsible for the accident. The tradeoff is that, one the employer pays the workers’ compensation claim, the worker cannot sue the employer for negligence in connection to the accident; this is called workers’ compensation immunity. What are the limits of workers’ compensation immunity, though? What happens if the employer’s actions or inaction so obviously endangered the employee that an accident was inevitable? If your work injury was the result of egregious negligence on your employer’s part and you are wondering if it is worthwhile to file a workers’ compensation claim, which would mean giving up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit, contact a South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.
When Your Employer Puts You Directly in Harm’s Way
Florida law accepts that intentional torts are an exception to workers’ compensation immunity. An intentional tort is when the employer either intentionally caused the injury or else knowingly instructed the employee to perform a task so dangerous that a serious injury was virtually certain to occur. A dispute over intentional torts related to a fatal work injury is the lawsuit between Eva Santamaria and R.L. Haines Construction regarding the death of Santamaria’s husband Victor Lizarraga. Lizarraga was an employee of Metal Bilt, Inc., which was subcontracting with R.L. Haines Construction to do steel work on an expansion being built onto a warehouse.
Metal Bilt’s task was to erect steel columns, which weighed 2,000 pounds each, onto a concrete base, fastened with bolts and epoxy adhesive. The bolts were supposed to be secured to the base with the adhesive, which needed to be left to dry for 72 hours before the columns could be erected. When a column fell on Lizarraga and fatally injured him, the adhesive had only been left to dry for 44 hours. In the ensuing lawsuit, the defendants argued that starting work on the columns after 44 hours instead of 72 is not an intentional tort; the other three columns did not fall or injure anyone. Santamaria argued that workers had alerted Donnie Langdale, the project superintendent for R.L. Haines, that a bolt was loose on the base of the column that struck Lizarraga. In other words, Langdale must have known that the adhesive had not set and it was extremely dangerous to work on that column.
Let Us Help You Today
If you think your work accident was the result of your employer intentionally placing you in a more dangerous situation than your job normally requires, a Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer can help you. Contact the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for more information.