A Minnesota decision explains the requirements for a successful common-enterprise defense.
The workers’ compensation statute protects contractors by providing that an employee, or his family, who has received workers’ compensation under the provisions of one contractor’s policy cannot also obtain compensation from a second contractor if the activity that caused the injury is an activity engaged in by both contractors as a “common-enterprise.”
- Kent Holland, Jr.’s article in ConstructionRisk.com outlines the requirements necessary to successfully claim this defense. He references a recent Minnesota case, Kelly for Washington v. Kraemer Construction, Inc. 896 N.W. 2d 504 (Minnesota 2017).
The family of a construction worker who was electrocuted while helping move “sections of pipe in a streambed” received a workers’ compensation settlement from the general contractor for whom the deceased worked. The family also filed suit against the subcontractor whose employee caused the fatal accident.
The Court held “that no recovery could be had against the subcontractor via separate legal action because it was immune from liability because it [the activity that resulted in the accident] was a ‘common-enterprise’ with the worker’s employer and therefore protected by the workers’ compensation statute.”
The Minnesota court ruled that the defendant, Kraemer Construction, successfully demonstrated that the criteria required for the common-enterprise defense were present.
“The workers were working together in a common activity. Although the two crews of workers had distinct functions, those functions were interdependent and required close, contemporaneous coordination … ‘The two crews were subject to similar hazards.’”
This decision is a fair, and reasonable, interpretation of the workers’ compensation statute.
Common-Enterprise Defense Prevents Employee that Recovered Workers’ Compensation from also Recovering from Other Contractor, J. Kent Holland, Jr., ConstructionRisk.com, November 2017.