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Florida First DCA rules that subcontractor's corporate officer who elected exemption from Workers' Compensation Law was not entitled to bring tort claim general contractor

On November 15, 2017, in Gladden v. Fisher Thomas Inc., No. 1D16-1752, the Florida First DCA affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment for the defendant in a tort case because the claim was barred by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law. The plaintiff, a corporate officer of a company that was a subcontractor of the defendant, claimed that his workplace injury was not subject to Workers’ Compensation Law preemption because he had previously elected exemption from workers’ compensation coverage as a corporate officer of his company. The First DCA noted that the only provision of the Workers’ Compensation Law that the specifically addresses the impact of the corporate exemption on workers’ compensation immunity is section 440.075, which permits an exempt corporate officer to proceed against “the corporate employer” at common law in an action to recover damages for injury or death. The Court found no basis to extend this rule to cover other entities, such as the general contractor in this case, noting that tort liability for the corporate employer makes sense since that entity is accepting the risk associated with the benefit of reduced workers’ compensation premiums.