Generally, when someone suffers injuries while at work, the person is limited to pursuing a workers’ compensation claim against his or her employer. Usually, however, if an entity other than the employer is liable for the individual’s harm, he or she can seek damages from that party. Recently, a Florida court addressed whether an employment contract could bar the plaintiff from pursuing a claim for damages against a third-party claim. If you were hurt while you were working due to the negligence of someone other than your employer, you may be able to pursue claims for damages and should consult a skillful Florida personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Facts of the Case
Reportedly, the plaintiff was employed by a security company that provided services for various businesses. While working at one of the businesses, the plaintiff slipped and fell down a set of stairs, suffering injuries. He then filed a lawsuit against the business, alleging it negligently failed to maintain the stairs, leading to his injury. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s employment contract, which contained a waiver of the right to pursue claims or file a lawsuit against any of his employer’s customers, barred him from recovering damages. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
Contractual Bar of Claims for Damages
In Florida, exculpatory contracts are disfavored under public law because they relieve a party of the duty to exercise reasonable care. Regardless, the law also favors the enforcement of contracts, and thus in cases in which a contract explicitly and clearly states that a party will be deemed blameless for any harm that may ensue, it will be enforced unless it violates public policy.
The Florida courts have only deemed a provision in a contract that bars liability to be sufficiently unequivocal to be enforceable when it clearly sets forth the scope and nature of the limitation. A contract will be deemed clear and unambiguous when it indisputably states an intention for the defendant to be excused from liability in a manner that an ordinary person would understand prior to entering into the contract.
In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the waiver in his employment contract was ambiguous and, therefore, unenforceable. The court disagreed, noting that the language of the contract clearly stated that he waived the right to pursue any claims against any customer of the employer, which included the business where the plaintiff was hurt.
Further, the court found that the waiver did not violate public policy, noting that the law permitted an employee hurt due to negligence of someone other than his employer to pursue claims outside of the workers’ compensation context, but did not mandate that such claims must be asserted. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney
In many instances in which people suffer injuries at work, they may not only be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits but also may be able to pursue damages from a third party. If you were hurt at work, the experienced Florida personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of your options for pursuing compensation. We can be reached via our online form or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a meeting.