Exclusive Remedy

Employer Didn’t Know About Dangerous Conditions

By: | January 27, 2014

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

CLP Resources, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, No. A138439 (Cal. Ct. App. 10/07/13, unpublished)

Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal held that a carpenter was not entitled to additional benefits for his injury.

What it means: In California, an employer will be liable for additional benefits for serious and willful misconduct if it knew of the dangerous condition, knew that probable consequences would involve serious injury to a worker, and deliberately failed to take corrective action.

Summary: A carpenter was sent to work for a company by his employer, a temporary placement agency. He was directed to use a table saw that was unsecured to a base and lacked a protective guard. He stepped on debris, lost his balance, and placed his hand on the saw blade, sustaining serious cuts to his hand. He sought additional benefits based on the “serious and willful misconduct” of his employer. The California Court of Appeal held that he was not entitled to additional benefits.

The court found that the employer did not have knowledge of the dangerous work conditions. The carpenter said that he told an employee of the agency that there were things “not right” on the job site. The court found his statement was insufficiently detailed to demonstrate that the agency had knowledge of particular circumstances likely to cause serious injury.

Also, the agency’s safety employee said that the unguarded table saw was not observed at an inspection before the carpenter’s injury. It was mentioned by individuals who previously worked at the job site, but the company supervisor removed his tools on a daily basis. The court said it was not clear who observed the table saw, when they “mentioned” it, who they told at the agency, and what they said about it.

The court also found that the carpenter did not present evidence of an act or omission by an executive, officer, or general superintendent of the agency. Under the circumstances of the case, the agency and company had joint liability for ordinary workers’ compensation benefits.

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