The Supreme Court of Texas issued a decision on rehearing in Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. Summers April 3, 2009. The court’s original unanimous decision in August 2007 that a Texas premises owner can be a statutory employer for workers’ compensation purposes produced a great deal of political heat and a flurry of amicus briefs; so much so that the court departed from its normal practice and entertained oral argument on the motion for rehearing.
On rehearing, three justices joined in the opinion of the court; three justices concurred in different parts of the court’s opinion (two of them writing separate concurring opinions), and three justices dissented from the court’s decision and opinion. The court’s holding, however, did not change.
In this workers’ compensation case, we decide whether a premises owner that contracts for the performance of work on its premises, and provides workers’ compensation insurance to the contractor’s employees pursuant to that contract, is entitled to the benefit of the exclusive remedy defense generally afforded only to employers by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. . . . We hold that the exclusive remedy defense for qualifying general contractors is, likewise, available to premises owners who meet the Act’s definition of “general contractor,” and who also provide workers’ compensation insurance to lower-tier subcontractors’ employees. Because we conclude that Entergy Gulf States, Inc. meets the definition of “general contractor” under the Act, and . . . otherwise qualifies under the Act . . . it is entitled to the exclusive remedy defense against the negligence claims brought by . . . John Summers [a subcontractor’s employee]. We reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render judgment for Entergy.
The opinion of the court and the concurring and dissenting opinions are available on the court’s web site at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/040309.asp. They are also available on Westlaw at 2009 WL 884906.
A bill has been introduced in the Texas legislature to “fix” the court’s decision in Entergy, however, so premises owners are well advised to monitor the progress of Texas Senate Bill No. 2063 (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/81R/billtext/pdf/SB02063I.pdf) before deciding whether to revise their insurance programs and forms of agreement with maintenance, construction, and other contractors in light of the decision in Entergy.