On June 30th, 2021, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld an award of $5.2 million for a taxi driver named Max Laguerre, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a fallen pipe from a hotel rooftop.
The accident occurred in 2015 when a pipe fell from an Atlanta hotel’s 4th floor pool deck, which was undergoing renovations.
In the 2019 trial, jurors found Cajun Contractors, the company that oversaw the hotel’s pool renovation, completely responsible for the accident and awarded $5 million in compensatory damages. The jury also granted a $250,000 punitive award, and $1.1 million was awarded in legal fees and litigation expenses.
Presiding Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes claimed that the court concluded that Cajun Contractors would be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the company that was working on the project itself, RYR Construction.
Essentially, Cajun’s owner, Troy Bossier, “exercised the right to control the time, manner, and method in which RYR performed the pool renovation,” according to Judge Barnes. Because Cajun Contractors “hired” RYR Construction to complete the project, Cajun was deemed to be RYR’s employer, and thus was held responsible for the fallen pipe.
Cajun Contractors contended that it was not responsible because it was RYR’s workers who should be at fault for the accident and that they acted as an independent contractor on the project. They also claimed that the accident was not reasonably foreseeable.
The court rejected Cajun’s contention. They noted evidence that Cajun’s owner, Troy Bossier, was considered to be RYR’s supervisor, and that Cajun provided tools, direction, and controlled the workflow and job site.
The court also cited that there was no contract between Cajun and RYR regarding the pool renovation, so therefore concluded that Cajun acted as RYR’s employer and thus was responsible for RYR’s actions during the project, included the negligence that led to the fallen pipe which injured Max Laguerre so severely.
Third-party liability cases are complex
This case is particularly complicated because the injured taxi driver, Max Laguerre, was involved in a third-party lawsuit.
Laguerre was injured on the job by another employer. He was hurt by a fallen pipe for which the court ultimately deemed Cajun Contractors responsible. Thus, in Laguerre’s case, he was essentially injured because of an accident caused by Cajun Contractors’ mismanagement.
Like Laguerre, you too may have a third-party case if the person who caused your work-related injury worked for another company or wasn’t working at all.
Third-party liability cases are particularly common among subcontractors, independent contractors, seasonal/temporary workers, or part of a construction crew. In these situations, filing for workers’ compensation and a third-party lawsuit can be more complicated because there is not a single employer to go to with your claim.
The importance of an experienced lawyer in third-party cases
It can be difficult to determine liability when filing a third-party injury claim. An injured worker may not know who to sue or which employer is ultimately responsible for compensation, especially when contractors are involved, such as in the Cajun Contractors case.
In such cases, it’s important to get help from an experienced attorney so that you can get appropriate legal advice for your unique situation. Because of the complicated nature of third-party liability and workers’ compensation claims, these cases can be very fact-specific.