Indiana Employer and Its Subsidiaries Protected by the Exclusive Remedies Provision of the Act

In Brenda Hall v. Dallman Contractors, LLC, 51 N.E.3d 261 (2016), the Indiana Court of Appeals recently addressed whether an employee could pursue a negligence action against a subsidiary of AT&T, Inc., after she had already received a worker’s compensation settlement from her employer, Ameritech.  The Court of Appeals answered in the negative, barring further recovery pursuant to the exclusive remedies provision of the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act.

In this case, there was no dispute regarding the fact that the employee injured her arm while working for Ameritech.  The injury occurred when she fell over the snow-covered legs of a construction sign located in a walkway that was adjacent to a construction project at the Indianapolis AT&T building.  As a result of said injuries, the employee received worker’s compensation benefits and eventually settled her claim.

In addition to settling her worker’s compensation claim, the employee filed a third party negligence claim against Dallman Contractors, LLC and AT&T Services.  In 2012, AT&T Services argued that the employee should be barred from recovery under the exclusive remedies provision of the Act.  The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for AT&T Services.  Thereafter, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to address the factual question of whether AT&T Services was a joint employer.

Pursuant to Section 22-3-6-1(a) of the Act, “a parent corporation and its subsidiaries shall each be considered joint employers of the corporation’s, the parent’s, or the subsidiaries’ employees.”  The exclusive remedies provision of the Act, located at I.C. 22-3-2-6, states that the rights and remedies granted to an employee under the Act “on account of personal injury or death by accident shall exclude all other rights and remedies of such employee … at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury or death.”  In its second motion for summary judgment, filed in 2014, AT&T Services presented evidence that both Ameritech and AT&T Services were subsidiaries of AT&T, Inc.  The trial court also found that Ameritech and AT&T Services were joint employers.  Once again, the trial court granted summary judgment for AT&T Services and the employee appealed.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment.  In so finding, the court agreed that AT&T Services was a subsidiary of AT&T, Inc. and, as a result, was also a joint employer.  As a joint employer, AT&T Services was protected by the exclusive remedies provision of the Act and the employee was barred from further recovery from AT&T Services.

Thanks to attorney Dane Kurth for this important case law update.  Dane covers both Illinois and Indiana for the firm.

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