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Manufacturer gets summary judgment dismissing tort claims


A Texas appellate court on Wednesday ruled that a packaging material manufacturer was entitled to summary judgment on the negligence and gross negligence claims filed by the representative of a temporary worker who had been severely injured on the manufacturer’s premises.

In December 2015, Rigoverto Balderas entered into a client services agreement with Port City Staffing, which stated that the agency would provide temporary employees with certain skills to Houston Foam Plastics Inc., according to Balderas v. Houston Foam Plastics Inc., filed in The Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas.

The agreement specified that Mr. Balderas was an employee of Port City, which was a nonsubscriber of workers compensation, and that the agency would perform the duties of “hiring, assigning, reassigning, counseling, disciplining and discharging” Mr. Balderas.

Port City initially assigned Mr. Balderas to work at Houston Foam as a forklift operator, but the company had him work at one of its locations as a grinder operator without providing notice to or obtaining permission from Port City.

Balderas was placing foam pieces on a plastic grinder machine when its interior spokes caught on the handles of a sack that Mr. Balderas was holding, causing grave injuries to his upper torso, head and arms. He currently lives at the rehabilitation facility and requires around-the-clock care.

Mr. Balderas’ representative filed suit against Houston Foam for negligence and gross negligence and later filed a request that the trial court abate his suit against Houston Foam because the company may assert an exclusive remedy defense under the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, of which Houston Foam later did.

The judge in the negligence suit signed an order of abatement.

Following more proceedings, Houston Foam then filed a motion to discontinue the abatement, requesting that the judge lift the abatement and allow the company to file a motion for summary judgment.

The judge granted Houston Foam’s motion to discontinue abatement, and the company moved for summary judgment, arguing the exclusive remedy barred the lawsuit. The judge granted Houston Foam summary judgment.

The appeals court then found Houston Foam’s pleadings provided sufficient support for its summary judgment motion, and it proved that it was Balderas’ employer and a workers compensation subscriber.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.