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A Texas workers compensation nonsubscriber must pay nearly $1 million to a worker who said he was injured on the job by a forklift.
In Load Trail LLC v. Julian, the Texas Court of Appeals, Sixth District in Texarkana on Thursday affirmed a trial court’s ruling upholding an arbitrator’s decision that the employer negligently failed to provide a safe workplace.
Joseph Julian worked for Sumner, Texas-based trailer manufacturer Load Trail LLC. In May 2017, Mr. Julian was injured when he was knocked to the ground by another worker transporting a metal wall on a forklift. The wall, which fell from the forklift, struck Mr. Julian on the right side of his back shoulder.
After the incident, he went home and later sought medical treatment and underwent lumbar fusion surgery. He said he also suffered from neck pain from the accident that prevented him from playing with his children and resuming manual labor work. In July, he was terminated for an unauthorized hospital visit, filing a false injury report and unauthorized leave of work on the next workday following the accident.
He sued Load Trail, a nonsubscriber to the Texas workers compensation system, for negligence and asked for damages of more than $1 million. His claims were ordered to mediation due to Load Trail’s arbitration policy, and an arbitrator held that Load Trail negligently failed to provide a safe workplace and awarded Mr. Julian $930,000 in damages.
Load Trail moved to vacate the award, but a trial court affirmed the judgment and the company appealed.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision. Although Load Trail argued that the arbitrator exhibited “evident partiality” in the proceedings and pressured the company to settle with Mr. Julian, the court disagreed, holding that Load Trail “failed to voice any objection to what it perceived to be the arbitrator’s actual bias” during the proceedings. Since Load Trail chose not to object to the perceived bias during the arbitration proceedings, the company waived its ability to claim bias occurred. Even if no waiver had occurred, the court said, the company failed to establish specific facts that would allow a reasonable person to conclude that the arbitrator was partial to Mr. Julian.
Of the 12,305 COVID-19 workers compensation claims filed by workers in Texas since a statewide disaster was declared on March 13, only 35% included claimants who tested positive for the virus and 38% of those were denied, according to a report released Tuesday by the Texas Department of Workers’ Compensation.