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Texas contract worker who lost arm limited to workers comp remedy: Court


Exclusive remedy rules prevent a contract employee whose arm was amputated in an on-the-job accident from suing the city he was working for at the time, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled.

Elbert Johnson worked for Fort Worth, Texas-based Magnum Staffing Services Inc., which provided staff to the city of Bellaire, Texas. Mr. Johnson lost his arm in 2008 when he was riding on the back of a garbage truck for Bellaire, and a sudden turn caused his arm to become trapped in the mechanism, according to court records.

Mr. Johnson, who received benefits through Magnum's workers compensation policy, sued Bellaire and the city employee who was driving the garbage truck at the time of the accident. The city argued that exclusive remedy provisions barred Mr. Johnson's negligence suit, but Mr. Johnson contended that he was a borrowed employee who could not be covered by Bellaire's workers comp fund for “paid” employees.

The Harris County District Court dismissed Mr. Johnson's suit based on exclusive remedy rules, court records show. But the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals found that it was not clear whether Mr. Johnson was an employee who could receive benefits under Bellaire's workers comp coverage.


In a unanimous decision Friday, the Texas Supreme Court found that Mr. Johnson was a covered employee of Bellaire, and therefore workers comp exclusive remedy provisions barred his negligence suit against the city and his former co-worker.

The “evidence establishes as a matter of law that Johnson was paid by the city through Magnum, and on the basis of the hours he reported to the city,” the court ruled. “As a matter of law, the city provided Johnson workers compensation coverage, and therefore his exclusive remedy was the compensation benefits to which he was entitled. The trial court correctly dismissed Johnson’s action against the city.”

The court’s decision was based on its ruling last year in Port Elevator-Brownsville L.L.C. v. Rafael Casados. In that case, the Texas high court found that temporary employees cannot be excluded from an employer’s workers comp policy.

Port Elevator reversed a $2.7 million liability judgment that had been awarded to Mr. Casados’ family after he was killed while working temporarily at a Port Elevator grain storage facility.