State Supreme Court Limits Liability in Workers’ Compensation Lawsuits
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that businesses that hire contractors for dangerous jobs are not liable if a contractor's employee is hurt or killed on the job, the Los Angeles Times reports. The court ruled that in such situations, employees or their survivors can only collect any workers' compensation benefits that covered the employee, "even if the hirer failed to make sure the contractor was qualified for the work." The Times reports that workers' compensation "usually" provides a "fraction" of what injured workers and their families could collect in a lawsuit if allowed to press for further damages. The state Supreme Court's ruling came in the case of Camargo v. Tjaarda Dairy, which was brought by the widow and children of Alberto Camargo, a Kern County laborer who died in a 1996 accident while driving a tractor that was not "properly equipped" with safety devices. The Times reports that California's current workers' compensation system prohibits injured employees from suing their employers and "generally limits" their recovery to medical expenses and lost wages. Justice Janice Rogers, writing for the court, said, "The hirer should not have to pay for injuries caused by the contractors' negligent performance, because the workers' compensation system already covers those injuries" (Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 7/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.