Kentucky Contractor Immune From Suit Filed by Employee of Subcontractor

Applying Kentucky’s “up-the-ladder immunity” doctrine, a state appellate court vacated a trial court’s refusal to grant summary judgment in favor of a defendant corporation that had been sued in tort by the employee of a sub-contractor, finding the defendant contractor was immune from suit based on the exclusive remedy provisions of the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act, specifically Ky. Rev. Stat. § 342.690 [see Ervin Cable Constr., LLC v. Lay, 2015 Ky. App. LEXIS 43 (Apr. 3, 2015). Citing Beaver v. Oakley, 279 S.W.3d 527 (Ky. 2009), the appellate court held that where the employee of a subcontractor is injured within the course and scope of the employment and receives workers’ compensation benefits, he or she is not only precluded from suing the employer, the immunity from suit also favors the contractor as well.

Plaintiff worked for Advanced Cable, a firm that had been contracted by Ervin Cable (“the defendant”) to provide installation services. Defendant’s employees and Advanced Cable’s employees, including the plaintiff, generally worked side-by-side. Plaintiff contended that he sustained injuries when one of defendant’s employees accidentally hit plaintiff with a truck while a group of both firms’ employees were at a convenience store making preparations for work in a remote part of the county.

Defendant’s moved for summary judgment, contending that as a matter of law it was immune from suit. The trial court denied the motion and defendant appealed. Plaintiff contended that there was an issue as to whether defendant required Advanced Cable to provide worker’s compensation insurance for this particular project pursuant to a written agreement. Citing Beaver v. Oakley, 279 S.W.3d 527 (Ky. 2009), the appellate court indicated plaintiff’s contention was irrelevant since plaintiff’s employer, Advanced Cable, had provided such coverage and plaintiff was receiving benefits under its insurance policy. Nor was a written agreement necessary; the facts clearly established, and plaintiff had not argued otherwise, that defendant had hired Advanced Cable to assist in the project.

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