Blog

The Texas Supreme Court Recently Released its Opinion on Rehearing in Entergy Gulf States v. Summers.

Previously issued as a 9-0 opinion, there were three justices (including the Chief Justice) who dissented, and two concurring opinions were written. The Court frames the issue in the first paragraph (as the majority sees the issue);

In this workers compensation case, we decide whether a premises owner that contracts for the performance of work on its premises, and provides workers compensation insurance to the contractor's employees pursuant to that contract, is entitled to the benefit of the exclusive remedy defense generally afforded only to employers by the Texas Workers Compensation Act.

The first four words were an ominous sign for the plaintiff, as this case was brought as a third-party case by John Summers (not a workers compensation case). Summers was an employee of IMC, a maintenance contractor who performed maintenance, repair and technical services at various Entergy facilities. Pursuant to contract, Entergy provided workers compensation to the IMC employees at Entergy's own cost. When Summers was injured at an Entergy facility, he received workers comp benefits from the policy purchased by Entergy. Summers sued Entergy on a third-party negligence claim and Entergy moved for summary judgment on the ground it was a statutory employer immune from common-law tort suits pursuant to Texas Labor Code Section 408.001 (a).

The Texas Supreme Court recognized there is a "statutory employer" created under certain circumstances that allows a general contractor to avoid third-party liability exposure through the workers comp bar. It then turned to the question of whether the owner of property can fall within the Texas Labor Code's definition of "general contractor." Finding the definition does not exclude a "premises owner", the Court concluded a premises owner can be a general contractor under the definition of Texas Government Code, Section 406.121 (1), and held Summers was barred from pursuing his third-party claim against Entergy.

The dissent focused on the meaning and definition of the term "general contractor" through a different set of lenses. The dissent contended "premises owners" were not "general contractors" under the Workers Compensation Act and never had been. When the Legislature rewrote the law in 1989, the Legislature did not intend to expand the definition of "premises owners" to be a sub-set of "general contractors," as the majority did. The dissent opined the majority's reading of the Act was overly broad, causing a premises owner to become a general contractor -- although it is clear Entergy was not a general contractor as that term is commonly used in the construction/maintenance world.

Whether the dissent was better reasoned or not is a matter of debate. What is not a matter of debate is the effect of the majority's opinion in Entergy. The effect is a significant loss of protections previously afforded to everyday workers in Texas who work as subcontractors. It expands (at no additional cost to the premises owner) the workers compensation protection to premises owners like never before. It will ultimately throw the burden of caring for those seriously and permanently injured on the backs of the taxpayers of Texas, and it is hoped the Legislature works to correct this consequence.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

Get Your Free Case Review 713.587.9668

Let Us Help You Today! Request a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

Our Record Of Success.

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

More Success Stories