It is fairly common knowledge that when someone is injured on the job, he is limited in the legal options he has for recovery against his employer. Indeed, Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law generally prohibits an employee from bringing a negligence suit against his employer. However, the Workers’ Compensation Law is a general bar, not an absolute bar. In fact, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently addressed the limits of one of those exceptions in its recent decision in Moradiellos v. Community Asphalt Corporation, Inc.
Moradiellos arose from the death of an asphalt surveyor who worked for Community Asphalt Corporation. Community Asphalt served as the general contractor of a project to widen the Florida Turnpike. The surveyor’s job was to determine where road markings and traffic lanes should be placed. He worked at nights, and on the night of the accident leading to his death, the survey crew was provided with a rack or portable lights, which were transported along the survey site by a pickup truck. At the time he was injured, the surveyor was working on the northbound lanes and was about 600-700 feet away from the portable lights. The surveyor was under a deactivated high mast light and was working with a flashlight and headlamp. He was hit by a dump truck that had been instructed to go to the worksite.
Instead of following directions to take the southbound lanes and approach the site from the south using the northbound lanes, the driver of the truck reversed backward down the southbound lanes, a violation of company policy. While reversing, the dump truck struck and killed the surveyor, who was facing in the other direction and speaking with a supervisor on a radio at the time of the collision. The surveyor’s widow brought this case as the representative of the surveyor’s estate and sued multiple parties, including Community Asphalt. Community Asphalt moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to immunity under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The trial court granted the motion, and the estate appealed the decision.