Luther, Collier, Hodges & Cash, LLP – Attorneys at Law

FLORIDA – Worker’s Compensation – “Horizontal Immunity”

Leonirez Heredia, an employee for QGS Development, Inc. (“QGS”) filed suit for negligence after being struck by a truck driven by Michael Gross, an employee for John Beach & Associates (“JBA”), while the two were performing work on Lenner Homes, LLC’s (“Lenner”) land. QGS had been contracted by Lenner to perform road work while JBA was contracted to perform survey work for Lenner.

Both parties submitted motions for summary judgment on the issue of worker’s compensation immunity. JBA argued in its motion, that QGS and JBA were both subcontractors of Lennar, and as such, there was horizontal privity between them so that JBA and Mr. Gross were immune from liability for QGS’ employee’s injuries.

Mr. Heredia’s motion argued that §440.01-60 creates horizontal privity only when “a contractor sublets any part or parts of his or her contract work to a subcontractor or subcontractors.” Mr. Heredia argued that since Lenner was the owner of the property and was developing the property for itself and not under a contract with a third party, Lenner was not a “contractor” that was “subletting” work as described in the statute. Therefore, neither JBA nor Mr. Gross was immune from liability.

The Circuit Court ruled in JBA and Mr. Gross’s favor without much explanation and Mr. Heredia appealed. Upon review, the Appellate Court reversed and remanded the Circuit Court’s decision, reasoning that there was no evidence that Lenner was performing “any work, of any kind, on behalf of any third party” with respect to the project. To the contrary, the evidence shows that Lenner was acting “on its own behalf as the owner of its own property.” Thus, Lenner was not a “contractor” per the statue and could not assert immunity through horizontal privity.

Leonirez Heredia v. John Beach & Associates, Inc., and Michael Melendes Gross (Appeal from Hillsborough County Circuit Court: 2D18-4127)

Read Full Opinion Here

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