The Texas House passed a bill (HB1657) in a 73-71 vote and sent it to the Senate. If enacted, HB1657 will expand the types of claims injured construction workers can recover from property owners under Texas law.
Earlier this year the Texas Supreme Court decided Entergy v. Summers. Under that case, property owners who buy workers compensation insurance covering injuries to the employees of construction contractors they hire, in addition to their own employees, are immune from claims outside of those allowed under the Texas Workers Compensation Act.
In 2001, plant owner Entergy Gulf States, Inc. hired a contractor to work on one of their facilities. One of the contractor’s workers was injured while
repairing a leak on a hydrogen generator. The plant owner’s workers compensation insurance policy covered the worker’s injuries.
The worker sued the plant owner. The plant owner countered, saying they were immune from the worker’s lawsuit under the Workers Compensation Act. The Texas Supreme Court agreed. Because the plant owner’s workers compensation insurance covered the worker’s injuries, the plant owner enjoyed immunity under the Workers Compensation Act against the worker’s lawsuit.
For several years Texas legislators have taken initiatives to amend the Workers Compensation Act. The recent vote is the latest installment in their initiative.
The Entergy decision provides a lot of protection to those property owners whose workers compensation insurance insures injuries to their contractors’ workers in addition to injuries to their own employees. That protection will soon be gone if HB1675 passes the Senate and Governor Perry signs it.