In this two part Blogpost, Boston Accident Lawyer, the attorney, reviews and analyzes a First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision, which considers insurance coverage issues for an accident involving a man whose arm was severed in a wool picking machine, while engaged as a contract worker for a Western Massachusetts recycling company.
PART ONE : PERSONAL INJURIES FROM CONTRACT WORKER’S SEVERED ARM MAY NOT BE COVERED BY INSURANCE
On August 23, 2004, Raul Torres suffered serious personal injuries when his arm was severed in a wool picking machine while working at Carrabassett Trading Company “CTC”) in North Oxford, Massachusetts. CTC is a recycling company, which collects and recycles waste fiber from textile mills, bales up the material and sells them to other manufacturers.
Torres was not an employee of CTC. Rather, his services were provided to CTC by his employer, Venturi Staffing Company, Inc (“Venturi”). Because CTC has an inconsistent demand for its products, it hires such contract workers to supplement its permanent staff of five. Torres filed suit against CTC in Massahusetts state court.
CTC’s insurer filed a federal court action seeking a declaration that there was no coverage for the injuries due to “employer” exceptions in the company’s liability policy. The Court reversed a district court ruling in favor of the insurer, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Torres had worked for Venturi since 2001, and was paid as a regular employee of Venturi, which in turn placed him with client companies, including CTC, for varying lengths of time. Venturi retained the right to hire and terminate Torres. While working for them, CTC was responsible for training, supervision and assigning work tasks to Torres.
Torres was first assigned to CTC in August 2003. He worked regularly at CTC until early December 2003. He was again assigned to CTC in mid-January 2004, and except for one week in June, worked regularly until August 2004, when the accident occurred. He worked a total of 1613 hours during his two tours at CTC. During roughly the same time span, five other Venturi employees placed at CTC worked between ten and 280 hours.
After Torres had sued CTC in Massachusetts state court, CTC’s insurer, Scottsdale Insurance Company (“Scottsdale”) filed a coverage action in U.S. District Court. It claimed there was no coverage because of an “Employer’s Liability” exclusion, which indicated that the insurance did not apply to “bodily injury to an ’employee’ of the insured arising out of and in the course of . . . performing duties related to the conduct of the insured’s business.”
The policy defined “Employee” to include a “leased worker”, but not a “temporary worker.” The question for the district court and the appeals court, then, was whether Torres was a leased or a temporary worker for purposes of coverage under the Scottsdale policy.
(This Blogpost to be continued in the next days)