Applying the Exclusive Remedy of Workers’ Compensation to Construction and Other Liability Claims in Mississippi
In Mississippi, workers’ compensation laws replace traditional negligence actions in exchange for a no-fault system of payment. Section 71-3-9 of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Act (MWCA) provides as follows:
The liability of an employer to pay compensation shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer to the employee, his legal representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next-of-kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages at common law or otherwise from such employer on account of such injury or death . . . . Miss Code Ann. § 71-3-9 (Rev. 2000).
This exclusivity of remedy is the product of the “bargain” that is the MWCA. According to that bargain, employees gain the benefit of compensation for all work-related injuries without reference to the fault of either the employee or the employer. Their consideration in exchange is surrendering the right to pursue “all other liability.”
Employers gain the benefit of having the amount they have to pay to any worker capped. Their consideration in exchange is agreeing to assume the financial burden of all work-related injuries without reference to fault. The exclusive remedy will operate as a defense based on immunity in a suit for damages against an employer who has an obligation under the MWCA.
Exclusivity applies directly to those who are considered employers of injured workers. In addition, it also applies to those who may be considered “statutory employers” of injured workers. One example can arise in the construction context.
If a subcontractor does not provide workers’ compensation benefits, then the general contractor is statutorily responsible to compensate injured employees of the subcontractor. General contractors are reciprocally extended employer immunity in suits for damages.
Therefore, if you are a general contractor and either your employees or those of your subcontractors threaten suit for injuries suffered on the jobsite, you should consider potential defenses available as a result of the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation.