Thursday, December 26, 2002

The Commonwealth Court took a look at Section 302(a) of the Act and again looked past it to Section 302(b) and dismissed the Claimant's claim. These are the statutory employer sections, and they state a) a contractor is liable to employees of an uninsured subcontractor and b) an employer who controls premises is liable to a laborer or assistant hired by an employee or subcontractor to perform a part of the employer's regular business. Leibensperger v. WCAB (Thomas H. Lewis Builders) is a garden-variety case of an injured employee of an uninsured subcontractor. Like every case, the general contractor could and should have assured the subcontractor had coverage. The case falls under the plain language of the first paragraph of section 302(a).

However, the first half of the second paragraph of 302(a) contains the additional provision that a person who contracts with another for mineral removal or timber cutting is deemed a contractor. The Commonwealth Court held this vitiates the rest of the Section. The Court stated it would apply this Section only for these two activities.

The second half of the second paragraph re-emphasizes that a person who contracts with another to perform part of the person's regular business is liable. This person should assure subcontractors are covered, unless, apparently, the work is something other than mineral removal or timber cutting.

Moving on then to Section 302(b), there is the additional requirement of control of the worksite by the contractor for the contractor to be found the statutory employer. The Claimant in this case, like several that have come before him, could not prove this control element. The claims are dismissed, and the contractor who did not assure his subcontractors had coverage is relieved of liability.

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