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Recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case Expands Employer’s Worker’s Compensation Liability

9/6/2012 | Construction Blog

In a recent opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court significantly broadened an employer’s responsibility as a “statutory employer” under the Worker’s Compensation Law. In Six L’s Packing Co. v WCAB, a produce company subcontracted the trucking of its harvested produce to its warehouses. Although the trucking subcontractor had agreed to provide worker’s compensation insurance to its employees, it failed to do so. One of the subcontractor’s drivers was injured in a motor vehicle accident while transporting the employer’s produce. The driver filed a worker’s compensation claim against the produce company alleging that it was his “statutory employer” under the worker’s compensation law.

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Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed lower court rulings and held that the produce company was liable as a “statutory employer” for the worker’s compensation claim of the injured driver. The court concluded that even though the produce company did not specifically control the subcontractor’s work, and even though the accident occurred off of the produce company’s premises, because the accident occurred during the performance of a regular or recurrent part of the produce company’s business (i.e., the transportation via truck of produce), the produce company was responsible as an employer for the injured worker’s claim.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the Six L’s case holds that any employer, whether in a construction context or not, will be potentially liable as a “statutory employer” under the worker’s compensation statute if an injury to a subcontractor’s worker occurs, in any way as part of a regular or recurrent part of the employer’s business.