A Pennsylvania man injured in a work-related accident in 2013 will get his day in court after a Chester County judge allowed his claim to go before a jury there. The man, Charles Brewer, was inspecting a steel plate at ArcelorMittal FPA in October of that year when the accident occurred. Bystanders say that the steel plate was on a table and Brewer stepped onto a grate that covered an open section in the middle of the table. The grating fell through the middle of the table and Brewer fell as well, injury his leg and his back. According to medical records, he suffered a herniated disc and has a permanent degenerative condition in his back.
As a general rule, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained at work. That means that you typically can’t file a lawsuit in court for job-related injuries. This is what is commonly known as the “grand bargain, ” ostensibly set up to benefit both workers and employers. Proponents say that the workers’ compensation system allows workers to collect benefits sooner and at less expense. They also argue that it protects employers, who don’t have to be subject to the whims of a sympathetic jury.
The workers’ compensation system, however, is designed only to address the negligence or carelessness of an employer or a co-employee. It does not affect an injured person’s right to sue an unrelated third party, such as a supplier, customer or vendor. In this case, Brewer’s attorneys alleged that SNC-Lavalin Project Services, the named defendant, was unrelated to ArcelorMittal and that Brewer’s injuries were caused, at least in part, by the wrongful conduct of SNC-Lavalin. Accordingly, the court concluded that it was appropriate for Brewer to seek damages in a court of law, rather than through the workers’ compensation system.
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