Most employers in Missouri are legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their workers if they get hurt on the job. However, those that are required to carry this insurance do not always do so. When their workers get hurt, though, they are not always completely out of luck. They may be a statutory employee of another company at the time of the accident.
A recent decision by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission (LIRC) shows how this can happen.
Tree Trimmer Falls from Roof; No Workers’ Compensation Insurance
The employee was a tree trimmer for Meyers Trees & More, LLC. Meyers Trees did not carry workers’ compensation.
Nestled in a heavily wooded area outside of St. Louis, there is a condominium complex called Birnamwood. The Birnamwood Condominium Association contracted with the Efthim Company Realtors, Inc., to act as the property management company. One of the things that Efthim had to do as property managers was keep the trees in the complex trimmed and safe for residents and their homes. Efthim did this by contracting with Meyers Trees.
On April 8, 2015, the Meyers Trees’ employee was trimming branches on a condo rooftop. He slipped, fell, and got hurt.
Because Meyers Trees did not have workers’ compensation insurance, the worker had to pay out of his own pocket. He then tried getting reimbursed by Efthim and Birnamwood. Complicating the situation was the contract between Efthim and Birnamwood. This contract said that Efthim could hire and pay employees on behalf of the condo association, but also that the Association would have “no employees.”
What is a Statutory Employer in Missouri?
Missouri’s workers’ compensation law has thought of this very type of situation, where a worker at an uninsured company gets hurt. Missouri Statute 287.040(1) says that a party can typically be a workers’ “statutory employer,” and therefore responsible for workplace injuries, if:
- The work was being performed under a contract,
- The injury happened on or about the party’s premises, and
- The injury happened while the worker was performing work that was in the usual course of the party’s business.
Under 287.040(3), the worker’s immediate employer – in this case, Meyers Trees – is primarily liable for the injured worker. However, the other parties who fall under the definition of a “statutory employer” would be secondarily liable based on their distance from the hurt worker.
This lets injured workers who have been stiffed by their primary employer, like Meyers Trees, to pursue compensation from those further up the chain of contracts.
In spite of the “no employees” provision in the contract between Efthim and Birnamwood, the LIRC decided that both companies were statutory employers of the injured worker. This allowed him to recover from them, in succession – first, from Efthim, which hired Meyers Trees, and then from Birnamwood, which hired Efthim.
If either of these secondary, statutory employers paid out, then they could file a new lawsuit against the primary employer to recoup their losses.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph
As we will detail in our next post, proving a statutory employer claim is not simple: It is often vigorously contested by the companies who might be found liable, often with the defense that the injury was not in the usual course of their business.
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office can help injured workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or western Missouri. Call them at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online.