Q. One of our employees badly hurt himself when he tripped over some equipment that had been left by the building maintenance. Workers’ comp covered his medical bills and lost wages, but he also sued the building for negligence. Now we have a letter from the office building 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 from any suit involving an employee injury?
A. The answer may lie in your lease agreement with the building. As a general rule, when an injured employee collects workers’ compensation and sues a third party for damages in excess of the workers’ comp benefits, the employer can’t be sued by the third party for the excess.
Texas workers’ compensation law limits the employer’s liability to the workers’ comp claim. However, that statutory protection can be waived by a written agreement with the third party that says the employer will accept the liability. That waiver must be signed before the injury occurs.
You should have your lawyer review your lease agreement with the building company to see what obligations you have.