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A United Parcel Service Inc. delivery driver who received workers compensation for injuries caused by lifting a heavy box can't pursue a negligence claim against the package's sender, a California appellate court has ruled.
Stephen Moore began working for UPS in 1989 and regularly lifted heavy boxes using proper lifting techniques taught by his employer, according to court records. This included rolling heavy packages onto vehicles using hand trucks and requesting assistance from other UPS personnel to move packages weighing more than 70 pounds.
Though UPS requires customers to attach warning labels to packages weighing more than 70 pounds, court filings state that Mr. Moore encountered mislabeled packages at least once a week.
In January 2010, Mr. Moore collected boxes at a pickup area at William Jessup University in Rocklin, California, according to records. Mr. Moore attempted to use a hand truck to move the boxes because they had shipping labels stating that they each weighed 48 pounds.
While Mr. Moore had no trouble moving four boxes onto the hand truck, a fifth box caused him to feel pain in his wrist, shoulder and neck, records show. Based on his 20 years of work experience, Mr. Moore later estimated that the box weighed 70 to 80 pounds, despite the label saying it weighed 48 pounds.
Mr. Moore stated in court filings that he would have slid the heavier box onto his hand truck or asked for assistance if the box had been labeled correctly.
Mr. Moore received workers comp medical and indemnity benefits from UPS for his injuries, according to records. His medical condition was ultimately assessed as permanent, and he received a cumulative disability rating of 5%.
Mr. Moore also sued William Jessup University for negligence, according to court filings. However, the university moved for summary judgment, saying it was not responsible for protecting Mr. Moore from injuries related to heavy boxes, since they were an inherent risk of his job.
The Placer County, California, Superior Court ruled in the university's favor, and Mr. Moore appealed. He argued in filings that while his job included a risk of injury from lifting heavy packages, the university increased his risk of injury by failing to state the true weight of the box that injured him.
But a three-judge panel of the California Third District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling on Dec. 28. The appellate court found that “the risk of injury from lifting heavy boxes that may be labeled with inaccurate weight information was inherent in Moore's job as a UPS delivery driver” and that the university did not have a duty to protect Mr. Moore from that harm.
The university “did not supervise Moore's work in lifting or moving packages,” the ruling reads. “Injury from lifting heavy boxes that may be mislabeled by UPS customers was a risk inherent in Moore's job. The University did not have a duty to protect Moore from injury that resulted from that risk.”
A group of delivery drivers has sued Amazon.com for alleged employee misclassification, saying that the online retailer failed to provide them the minimum wage, overtime pay and workers compensation coverage while working for Amazon's “Prime Now” service.