Understanding Statutory Employer Immunity in Workers’ Compensation Cases in Louisiana

ladder_step_ladder_passage-scaledStatutory employer immunity is critical in determining liability and compensation for workplace injuries in workers’ compensation. The following case is an example where the court had to decide whether the defendant was entitled to statutory employer immunity under the dual contract theory provided for in La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(2). We will examine the facts of the case, the arguments presented by both parties and the court’s decision. We will also examine the legal framework surrounding statutory employer immunity and its impact on workers’ compensation cases.

The case involves Patrick Cummins, a worker hired by a subcontractor to perform its contract with R.A.H. Homes and Construction, LLC (“R.A.H.”), the defendant. The homeowners had contracted R.A.H. to construct a single-family home, including the installation of an attic HVAC system. Cummins became seriously injured when the attic access ladder malfunctioned, and he fell while performing the work required under R.A.H.’s contract with the homeowners.

Cummins sued several defendants, including R.A.H., in tort, alleging that R.A.H. was directly responsible for the improper installation of the attic ladder that led to the accident. In response, R.A.H. asserted an affirmative defense of statutory employer immunity under La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(2), claiming that a statutory relationship existed through the two-contract theory.

The two-contract theory allows a contractor (in this case, R.A.H.) to claim statutory employer immunity if it entered into two separate contracts: one with the homeowner and another with the subcontractor performing work on the project. For this defense to apply, the work or services provided by the subcontractor must be contemplated or included in the contract between the principal and the homeowner.

Cummins argued that R.A.H. was not his statutory employer under La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(3) because no written contract expressly recognized R.A.H. as his statutory employer. However, the court disagreed, citing the dual-contract theory and the absence of a written contract requirement under La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(2). It emphasized that R.A.H. had two separate contracts – one with the homeowners and another with the subcontractor, United, for whom Cummins worked. Because the work performed by United was provided for in the contract between R.A.H. and the homeowners, the court found a statutory relationship between R.A.H. and Cummins.

Statutory employer immunity is essential to workers’ compensation laws, ensuring that workers injured on the job receive compensation while limiting employers’ liability. By providing exclusive remedy protection, the law aims to avoid lengthy tort litigation and to facilitate a more efficient and streamlined resolution of workers’ compensation claims.

The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision and upheld R.A.H.’s entitlement to statutory employer immunity under the two-contract theory. The case is a valuable example of how statutory employer immunity works in workers’ compensation cases, highlighting the importance of contracts and the interplay between the parties involved. As statutory employer immunity laws can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is important to understand the specific provisions applicable in a given case to ensure a fair and equitable resolution for all parties involved.


Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Oprah Jerome

Other Berniard Law Firm Articles on Workers Compensation: Should an employer continue to pay Workers’ Compensation Benefits even after an employee has fully recovered?

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