Texas Supreme Court upholds fundamental workers' comp right

The Supreme Court of Texas issued a unanimous decision that bars negligence claims again policyholders, which is good for both Texas employees and employers, workers' compensation experts say.

This decision reversed the previous judgment from the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals in Port Elevator-Brownsville versus Casados and rendered judgment for Port Elevator. Based on the Supreme Court of Texas’ decision, employers cannot intentionally or unintentionally divide their work forces, leaving some employees uninsured. According to the court's opinion, this ensures that employees know whether they are protected by workers' compensation coverage.

"This decision is great for Texas workers because it assures them that they will be covered, and it reinforces a longstanding workers' compensation rule," says Mary Barrow Nichols, general counsel and senior vice president for Texas Mutual. "This straightforward ruling from the Texas Supreme Court is also positive for Texas employers because it strengthens the exclusive remedy protection given to workers' compensation policyholders."

In an earlier instance, the Court of Appeals awarded nearly $3 million in damages to the family of a temporary worker who died on the job at Port Elevator. Texas Mutual provided workers' compensation insurance for Port Elevator while the temporary staffing agency insured workers' compensation through another insurance company. According to the plaintiffs, Port Elevator intended to and excluded the worker from workers' compensation coverage on multiple theories that were rejected by the court. The court maintains that an employee may have multiple employers, and each employer with workers' compensation insurance is entitled to the sole remedy as a bar to claims about the injury.

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