The Facts: Magnum Staffing Services, Inc. furnished a worker by the name of Elbert Johnson to the City of Bellaire. The City paid Magnum and Magnum paid Johnson. Magnum did not direct the work of Johnson, but did provide workers' compensation coverage for Johnson. The City also provided workers' compensation coverage to its paid employees.
Johnson lost an arm while working for the City and sued the City along with another employee. The City and employee filed a Plea to the Jurisdiction and Motion for Summary Judgment based on governmental immunity and the workers' compensation bar. The trial court dismissed the case, but the appellate court reversed.
The appellate court determined that the workers' compensation bar did not apply unless Johnson was actually covered, as opposed to legally required to be covered, under the City's workers' compensation plan. The court of appeals determined that there was a fact issue as to whether Johnson was an employee that was actually covered because he was paid by Magnum, not the City.
The Texas Supreme Court's Analysis:
The Texas Supreme Court first dispensed with the appellate court fact issue and stated that Johnson was an employee of the City since the City controlled Johnson's work. Control of the work took priority over payment under the City's workers' compensation plan.
Next, the court addressed the money issue. The Texas Supreme Court stated that since Johnson received money from the City through Magnum that he was paid by the City. Thus, he was a paid employee under the City's workers' compensation plan.
What to Take Away:
Demonstrating actual coverage under a particular workers' compensation plan will not control the application of the workers' compensation bar. Rather, demonstration that a person is an employee will control.
City of Bellaire v. Elbert Johnson (Tex. June 7, 2013).