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New Florida Law Defines Negligence In Workers’ Compensation Cases

Whether or not a person was negligent is the pivotal issue in all cases alleging carelessness, but Florida law carves out a difference between ordinary negligence and gross negligence. That distinction arose in the context of a case involving a construction worker who was injured on the job, and it was addressed by a Florida appellate court when it reversed a trial court’s decision.

Villalta was a drywall finisher who was employed by a subcontractor on a construction project. Tropic Aire was another subcontractor on the project. While in the course of his employment, Villalta fell from a scaffold. His fall continued through an uncovered opening in a floor that was created by Tropic Aire.

The general rule
Florida’s general rule is that if two subcontractors are providing services on the same project, the second subcontractor is granted immunity from suit by the employee of the first subcontractor, so long as the second subcontractor’s gross negligence was not the major cause of the accident.

The lower court’s ruling
The lower court judge heard evidence in the case about the second subcontractor cutting a hole through the floor of the scaffolding, and it held that the second subcontractor was merely negligent as opposed to grossly negligent. On that basis, the second subcontractor was dismissed out of the case, and Villalta appealed.

The appellate court’s ruling
In reversing the trial court, the appellate court remarked that “the line between simple and gross negligence is often uncertain and indistinct.” It held that the issue of whether Tropic Aire was ordinarily or grossly negligent was a genuine issue of material fact. It a question for a judge alone to decide. The decision had to be made by a jury.

Coral Springs Workers Compensation Attorney

Workers’ compensation is a complex area of the law requiring the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. If you suffer an injury at work anywhere in Florida, protect your rights, and contact Coral Springs workers’ compensation attorney Evan Ostfeld at 866-478-3978. He’s uniquely positioned to help you with all aspects of your case.

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