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Florida Second DCA rules that electric company could not claim workers compensation immunity from liability for injuries to employees of company working under maintenance contract at electric plant

On October 16, 2020, in Tampa Electric Company v. Gansner, et al., No. 2D19-3091, the Florida Second DCA affirmed a trial court ruling denying summary judgment to the defendant in a premises liability personal injury lawsuit.  The defendant maintained that it was entitled to workers compensation immunity from any lawsuit because the plaintiffs had been injured at the defendant’s facility while working as employees of a company that had contracted to do on-site maintenance work for the defendant.  The defendant maintained that workers’ compensation immunity existed pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 440.10(1)(b) which provides that “[i]n case a contractor sublets any part or parts of his or her contract work to a subcontractor or subcontractors, all of the employees of such contractor and subcontractor or subcontractors engaged on such contract work shall be deemed to be employed in one and the same business or establishment, and the contractor shall be liable for, and shall secure, the payment of compensation to all such employees, except to employees of a subcontractor who has secured such payment.” Like the trial court, the Second DCA concluded that the undisputed material facts did not establish that the defendant had sublet any part of a prime contract it had with a third party. The defendant also argued that it has an implied contractual obligation to its customers to maintain its electrical generating equipment and that it sublet that obligation to the defendants’ employer.  The Second DCA rejected this argument on the basis that the § 440.10(1)(b) uses the term "contract work," not "work that contributes to the performance of the contract."

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