Do we have to defend a third party whose negligence caused our worker’s injury? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Do we have to defend a third party whose negligence caused our worker’s injury?

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Q. One of our employees was badly injured when he tripped over equipment that had been left by our office building’s maintenance workers. Workers’ comp covered his medical bills and lost wages, but he also sued the building’s owners for negligence. Now we have a letter from the owners demanding that we defend them in the lawsuit and telling us we are responsible. How can that be? I thought we were protected by workers’ comp.

Generally, under Pennsylvania law, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy against an employer for an injury occurring at work. This statutory immunity extends not only to actions by employees, but also to actions for contribution or indemnification by a third party who is being sued by the injured employee as a result of the injury.

However, the employer may be liable to a third party for damages, contribution or indemnity if such liability is expressly provided for in a written contract entered into between the employer and the third party before the date of the occurrence that gave rise to the action.

You should review your contract with the office building to determine whether it addresses the issue of liability, contribution or indemnity.

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