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Injured worker has to prove company is secondarily liable in workers' comp claim

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split in deciding a workers’ compensation claim concerning who had the burden to prove whether the true value of work exceeded $1,000 and, therefore, triggered secondary liability.

Jason Young sued Hood’s Gardens after he was severely injured and rendered a paraplegic after trying to remove a stump from the greenhouse’s property. Hood’s had contracted with Discount Tree Extraction a/k/a D & E Tree Extraction to remove a hickory tree. The tree service was paid $600 and allowed to keep the wood.

Since Discount Tree did not carry workers’ compensation coverage, Young sought the benefits from Hood’s. He argued the value of the wood exceeded $400 increasing the value of the work to $1,000, which would have made Hood’s secondarily liable for the workers’ compensation benefits.

Hood’s countered that it was not secondarily liable because the value of the work performed was less than $1,000.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hood’s and the Court of Appeals affirmed in Jason Young v. Hood’s Gardens, Inc., 29A02-1303-PL-298.
 
The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s interpretation of the state’s workers’ compensation statute as requiring parties to agree before the work begins that the project will exceed $1,000 and thus trigger secondary liability. Otherwise, the trial court reasoned, companies would be unknowingly exposing themselves to liability depending on the value of scrap they want removed from their property.

“The statute specifies that it is the contractor who furnishes the performance of work in excess of $1,000 in value, rather than any value provided by the contractee,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the majority. “Thus we interpret the statute to base secondary liability only upon the value provided by the contractor.”

Judge James Kirsch dissented, contending Hood’s – not Young – had the burden of establishing that the value of the work, which included the wood, did not exceed $1,000. Instead Hood’s did not provide any evidence showing that the value of the wood did not top $400.

Kirsch voted to reverse summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.  

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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