Tragic accident at Jacksonville Shipyards – will it fall under workers compensation immunity or intentional tort?

Jacksonville Shipyard reports that a woman working at the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Blount Island Marine Terminal was critically injured Tuesday in an industrial accident.  A pallet of paper collapsed and pinned the woman to the ground at the SSA Cooper paper warehouse on Propeller Drive.  Police report that the woman was taken by JFRD to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. Police do not suspect foul play in the incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) was notified of the accident and will conduct its own investigation.  The News4Jax I-TEAM found an OSHA inspection of SSA Cooper from 2006, for which violations were issued in 2007. Three violations, categorized as “other” violations, dealt with not having proper equipment — life rings, personal flotation devices and a ramp/walkway.  Another inspection late last year, still shows up as “open” on the website, but it may be closed at this point. The I-TEAM contacted the Jacksonville area OSHA office, but had not heard back as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Our thoughts and prayers are for a speedy recovery for this woman.
According to Florida law, this woman’s tragic injuries would fall under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law (F.S. Ch. 440) which is intended “to assure the quick and efficient delivery of…benefits to an injured worker and to facilitate the worker’s return to gainful reemployment at a reasonable cost to the employer.”  It is based on a trade-off pursuant to which, in return for strict liability of employers for workplace injuries, employees give up the right to a common-law action against the employer for negligence. For employee injuries or death “arising out of work performed in the course and the scope of employment,” an employer’s obligation to pay benefits pursuant to the workers’ compensation law is generally “exclusive and in place of all other liability, including vicarious liability.” The legislature’s intent was to give employers protection from a lawsuit except in the most exceptional circumstances. In fact, amendments in 2003 to F.S. §440.11(1), created a much narrower intentional-tort exception. The narrower exception signaled to the public that in all but the most outrageous cases, employers who comply with the law’s provisions to ensure compensation of employees injured as the result of work performed in the course and scope of their employment are immune from a civil action seeking damages by the employee. The only exception would be when the employee prove[d], by clear and convincing evidence” either that: 1. The employer deliberately intended to injure the employee; or 2. The employer engaged in conduct that the employer knew, based on prior similar accidents or on explicit warnings specifically identifying a known danger, was virtually certain to result in injury or death to the employee, and the employee was not aware of the risk because the danger was not apparent and the employer deliberately concealed or misrepresented the danger so as to prevent the employee from exercising informed judgment about whether to perform the work.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact us for a free consultation at Edwards & Ragatz,P.A. (904)399-1609 or toll free at (800)366-1609 or via our website

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