A temporary worker whose finger was severed in a workplace injury is limited to workers’ compensation coverage through her staffing provider, the Appeals Court of Indiana ruled in dismissing her negligence claim against the staffing buyer.
Eshanya Walls was assigned by Bridge Staffing Inc. to work at Markley Enterprises Inc., an assembly plant in Elkhart, Ind. While operating a punch press on Oct. 2, 2014, Walls’ hand was pulled into the press, and a finger on her right hand was crushed and severed. Bridge Staffing’s workers’ compensation insurer paid for all medical expenses and workers’ compensation benefits related to the incident. Markley Enterprises did not pay any worker’s compensation benefits, according to court documents.
Walls filed a complaint against Markley in May 2016, alleging that she was injured due to the company’s negligence.
The trial court found the negligence claim was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act. On appeal, the Indiana Appeals Court concurred, saying that because Walls was an employee of both Markley and the temporary staffing agency that placed her, exclusive remedy did indeed apply and the trial court properly dismissed Walls’ action.
Co-employment is an often-feared risk concept in contingent workforce management, but savvy CW program managers are coming around to its benefits specific to workplace injuries and exclusive remedy, notes Stephen Clancy, SIA’s senior director of contingent workforce strategies, knowledge and research. “A few years ago, companies would strive to avoid any finding of co-employment status, but when it comes to workers’ compensation exclusivity, co-employment is your friend.”