Florida Appeals Court Upholds Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Immunity
An appeals in the state of Florida’s Fifth District has again upheld Florida’s workers’ compensation immunity law under F.S. 440.11(1)(b) and denied a civil court wrongful death action by a deceased employee’s survivors against his employer after the employee/worker was killed when his employer instructed a subcontractor to continue working before the recommended cure time for the epoxy that anchored a 2000 pound column. Case: R.L. Haines Construction , LLC v. Santamaria.
Due to the fact that the employer did not allow the epoxy to cure for the recommended amount of time the 2000 pound column fell to the ground and crushed the employee resulting in fatal injuries.
The court again analyzed Florida’s Worker’s Compensation immunity from several suit by employees and determined that the employer was immune except in the most egregious circumstances.
In this case, despite the fact that the employer knowingly allowed their employees to continue working under a 2000 pound column that was not properly secure (something that should shock the conscience of any reasonable person), the court still held that worker’s compensation immunity applied and that even though the column was certain to fall “There was no expert testimony from which it could be reasonably inferred that the column would fall at time, in a direction, and in a manner that was virtually certain to injure or kill an employee.”
The court also stated that “the test is not whether the injury was preventable” the proper test under F.S. 440.11(1)(b) is if 1. “The employer deliberately intended to injure the employee;” or 2. “The employer engaged in conduct that the employer knew, based on similar accidents or on explicit warnings specifically identifying a known danger, was virtually certain to result in injury or death to the employee, and the employee was not aware of the risk because the danger was not apparent and the employer deliberately concealed or misrepresented the danger so as to prevent the employee from exercising informed judgment about whether to perform the work.”
As a Miami workers compensation lawyer representing injury victims for almost 20 years these types of decisions are discouraging. The fact that an employer can act in such a reckless disregard for the lives of their employees and not be held civilly liable is shocking. But as long as Florida’s current workers’ compensation law is allowed to stand that will unfortunately be the case in the state of Florida.