Flower Mound Construction Worker Electrocuted
By Rachel E. Montes posted in Construction Accidents on Thursday, June 4, 2009
A construction worker was electrocuted today (June 5, 2009) after getting tangled in power lines while working on a new hospital in Flower Mound. The injured worker was transported by Careflite to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Details of his condition are not known. Meanwhile, utility crews are working to restore power to the area, which was knocked out at the time of the accident.
This incident highlights the dangers that so many Texas workers, especially construction workers, face while on the job. In particular, workers in the construction industry have been put at an even greater risk because of the decision of the Texas Supreme Court in Entergy Gulf States vs. John Summers. In the Entergy case, John Summers was injured on the job for International Maintenance Corp., a contractor that Entergy hired to perform work at Entergy’s Sabine Station plant. As you would expect, Mr. Summers made a worker’s compensation claim with his employer. Employers who purchase workers compensation insurance cannot be sued by their employees when they are injured on the job unless the injury results in the employee’s death and unless the employer was grossly negligent.
In addition, Mr. Summers sued Entergy for its negligence. Entergy claimed it could not be sued because it authorized the contractor to do the work and therefore Entergy was claiming it was the “general contractor” for the job. The Texas Supreme Court, in a very controversial ruling once again ruled in favor of big business and the interests of the insurance company. The Texas Supreme Court overturned the appellate court ruling which said that a plain reading of the law allowed Mr. Summers to sue Entergy for its negligence. The Texas Supreme Court without an explanation ruled that even if Entergy was negligent, Mr. Summers was not entitled to sue Entergy because Entergy – the “premises owner” – also qualified as a “general contractor” and hence was immune from the injury suits even though Entergy did not have a contract designating itself as the general contractor and even though Entergy had not paid for any of the worker’s compensation insurance and certainly did not advise Mr. Summers that he was considered and employee of Entergy and covered under its worker’s compensation insurance.
This ruling and the Texas Supreme Court has come under sharp attack for the implications that this decision has on thousands of Texas workers and businesses. Even the Texas Association of Defense Counsel (a group of attorneys that primarily represent insurance companies) filed a brief with the Court claiming that the Court’s decision is wrong and should be changed because “expanding the definition of ‘general contractor’ as the Court did completely disrupts the complex scheme of how employers are defined under the Texas Workers Compensation Act and that the decision could plague the Texas Workers Compensation Act for decades and endanger worker safety.
It was hoped that the Texas legislature would be able to cure this problem, despite a strong push by Democratic legislators to fix the law, the movement fell just a couple of votes short.