Law School Case Brief
Varela v. Am. Petrofina Co. - 658 S.W.2d 561 (Tex. 1983)
The Workers' Compensation Act, Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 8306, § 3, precludes any right by an employee to a cause of action against his employer for common law negligence.
An employee was injured due to an alleged premises defect while working on behalf of respondent third party. He received workers' compensation benefits through his employer and brought suit against respondent for negligence. The trial court rendered judgment for petitioner, but reduced the award by the percentage of negligence attributed both to petitioner and his employer. The court of appeals affirmed, but the state supreme court reversed the judgments of the lower courts and rendered judgment for the amount of damages reduced only by the percentage of negligence attributed to petitioner.
Can an employer's negligence be considered in a third-party negligence action brought by an employee arising out of an accidental injury covered by workers' compensation insurance?
The court reversed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeals and rendered judgment for petitioner employee for the total amount of damages less that percentage attributable to his own negligence. The court held that Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 8306, § 3 barred recovery by respondent against petitioner's employer. Therefore, petitioner's employer was not a tortfeasor against whom the third party could recover in contribution, and petitioner's award could not be reduced by the workers' compensation award. Moreover, workers' compensation could not reduce a judgment obtained against respondent third party because workers' compensation was not a settlement, and respondent could not recover in contribution from the employer.
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