Saturday, February 24, 2018

Published:09/30/2014

The Southern District Court of Appeals analyzed whether § 287.130 due to one employer’s attempt to use that provision to join another employer of Claimant to the worker’s compensation action. Claimant was a deputy sheriff who worked in the Christian County Sheriff’s Department. On certain days off from his duties with Christian County, he worked security for the Ozark Baseball Club at games for the Ozark Ducks. After a particular game, while working for the OBC, Claimant attempted to stop the vehicle of an inebriated couple. He called the Christian County Sheriff’s Department to request back-up and told them he was going back on duty in order to stop the commission of the impending crime. In his attempt to stop the couple from driving away, he was struck by the vehicle and grievously injured.

Claimant brought a worker’s compensation action against Christian County for his injuries. Christian County then filed a motion with the ALJ to join OCB as a co-defendant. The ALJ initially joined OCB pursuant to § 287.040, which permits the joinder of contractors or subcontractors, but then found that OCB was not a contractor or subcontractor. The ALJ agreed with Christian County, though, that § 287.130 permitted joinder and kept OCB in the action. The Commission determined that § 287.130 did not permit joinder and dismissed OCB from the worker’s compensation proceedings.

Section 287.130 permits two things in situations where a claimant is employed by joint employers: 1) that a claimant is given the ability to choose against which employer or employers it wishes to pursue a worker’s compensation action, and 2) that an employer found liable can proceed in a contribution action against any other employer who is joint and severally liable. The ALJ decided that because OCB was subject to a contribution action, it would be unfair to refuse to join them to the worker’s compensation action.

The Southern District ultimately disagreed with the ALJ for the following reasons:

Section 287.130 does not implicitly require joinder of any joint employers because the statute is clear and unambiguous and it is silent regarding the joinder of joint employers.

Allowing one employer to join another employer strips the claimant of the express right mandated by the statute to determine the employer or employers against which it wishes to proceed. If the employer has the ability to join another employer, it nullifies the claimants ability to control the proceeding, which is expressly intended by § 287.130.

Section 287.040 expressly permits any party to join any additional employers in actions involving contractors and subcontractors. Clearly, the legislature was aware of the joinder issues when passing the statute, and it would have stated in § 287.130 that it intended any one to be able to join joint employers if it has so desired. It did not.

Therefore, the Court affirmed the decision of the Commission, and OCB was not joined to the worker’s compensation action. Christian County had the ability to pursue an action against OCB for contribution.