Pennsylvania’s Statutory Employer Doctrine is a common defense in construction accident cases. The original purpose of this law was to protect workers. The doctrine was established to protect employees of a subcontractor if the subcontractor did not maintain worker’s compensation insurance. In such a situation, the injured worker could seek worker’s compensation coverage from the general contractor who had hired the subcontractor. In this way, an injured employee could get worker’s compensation benefits from a contractor higher up in the contract chain. However, in exchange for providing worker’s compensation benefits, the general contractor would then be immune from third-party lawsuits.
This doctrine was soon twisted to protect general contractors from liability even when there was no issue of worker’s compensation coverage. Now this doctrine is primarily used by general contractors who seek to indemnify themselves from injuries to subcontractors on any construction site in Pennsylvania.
Philadelphia construction accident lawyer John Mattiacci has successfully defeated Pennsylvania’s Statutory Employer Doctrine time and again. John has been able to overcome this defense in construction accident cases on large construction projects, such as the Pennsylvania Convention Center Expansion project, the expansion of the University of Pennsylvania’s health system, and large SEPTA construction projects. Construction accident lawyer John Mattiacci has also been able to overcome this defense on smaller construction projects, such as residential home construction sites and smaller renovation projects at buildings such as Liberty Place. John’s success in defeating this defense has helped lead to the recovery of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for clients. Those clients have included union electricians, iron workers, carpenters, pile drivers, teamsters, and steamfitters.
Pennsylvania’s Statutory Employer Doctrine is subject to very specific requirements. In the landmark case of McDonald v. Levinson Steel Co., 153 A.2d 424 (1930), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court articulated five strict and necessary requirements that a party must prove to enjoy statutory employer immunity.
The five strict and necessary requirements are:
(1) An employer who is under contract with an owner or one in the position of an owner.
(2) Premises occupied by or under control of such employer.
(3) A subcontract made by such employer.
(4) Part of the employer’s regular business entrusted to such subcontractor.
(5) An employee of such subcontractor.
Each and every one of the elements of Pennsylvania’s Statutory Employer Doctrine must be met by a defendant in order for that defendant to be immune from tort liability. If even one of these factors is not met, then the doctrine cannot apply.
The Courts have stated that this doctrine should only be imposed lightly. “Very great care. . .must be exercised before allowing an employer to avoid his liability at common law by asserting that he is a statutory employer. Section 203 of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, which was designed to extend benefits to workers, should not be casually converted into a shield behind which negligent employers may seek refuge.” Stipanovich v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 231 A.2d 894, 898 (Pa. Super. 1967).
Having an attorney that is experienced in overcoming Pennsylvania’s Statutory Employer Doctrine is important. Knowledge of this doctrine is essential from the very start of a construction accident case. The key to defeating this defense must start at the very outset of a case and before litigation even starts. By knowing the doctrine and more importantly, how to defeat it, injured workers can still obtain the compensation they deserve.
If you or a family member have been injured in a construction accident, call Pennsylvania construction accident lawyer John Mattiacci today. John has handled catastrophic construction accident cases for years and has helped recover multi-million dollar recoveries for seriously injured clients. Contact Mattiacci Law for a free consultation to see what we can do to help you.