California: Stuntman Held to Be Special Employee – Exclusive Remedy Bars Civil Action, Ogilvie Oral Argument Set

California: Stuntman Held to Be Special Employee – Exclusive Remedy Bars Civil Action, Ogilvie Oral Argument Set

The Second District Court of Appeal has upheld the dismissal of a civil action stemming from a claim for personal injuries sustained by a stunt man while performing a risky stunt while rehearsing for a film.  In Angelotti v The Disney Company et al, the Court held the stunt man was an special employee of the production company and the stunt coordinator was also an employee of the production company and therefore immune from civil liability.

Second Mate hired Plaintiff, Anthony Angelotti as a stunt performer through loan-out company, Skiddadle Inc.  Under the terms of the loan-out agreement, Skiddadle Inc. agreed to lend the services of Angelotti to Second Mate, and Second Mate agreed to pay Skiddadle Inc. for those services.  An “Inducement” attached to the loan‑out agreement and signed by Angelotti stated:

“For purposes of any and all Workers’ Compensation statutes, law or regulations (‘Workers’ Compensation’), I acknowledge that an employment relationship exists between Producer [Second Mate] and me, Producer being my special employer under the Agreement.  Accordingly, I acknowledge that in the event of my injury, illness, disability or death falling within the purview of Workers’ Compensation, my rights and remedies (and those of my heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns) against Producer or Producer’s affiliated companies and their respective officers, agents and employees (including, without limitation, any other special employee and any corporation or other entity furnishing to Producer or an affiliate company the services of any such other special employee) shall be governed by and limited to those provided by Workers’ Compensation”

A second agency, Cast and Crew, provided all of the payroll services and employee benefits, including workers’ compensation coverage for the employees of the project including plaintiff, Jim Stephens was also hired by Second Mate Productions to provide stunt coordination and equipment including a device termed a “descender”.  The descender has a spool of cable that can be controlled while being let out to slow down or speed up a fall that is being filmed.  He was operating the actual equipment when plaintiff was seriously injured while being dropped using the descender.  He sued Second Mate, Jim Stevens and also the company who contracted with Second Mate to complete production of the film, Disney Company, (and other Disney entities Walt Disney Pictures & Buena Vista Productions) along with various Disney employees.  The round out the defendants he included Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. & Golden Oak Ranch Properties as defendants.

The issue presented was whether plaintiff was an employee of Second Mate Productions or an employee of either Skiddadle or Cast and Crew as well as the role of Jim Stephens.  At trial the Court ruled in favor of defendants that plaintiff was an employee of Second Mate, as was Stephens; who was therefore immune from civil liability.  The Court also ruled Disney Company (and its employees) had not assumed the obligation to provide a safe place to work from Second Mate (some of the listed defendants did not appear to even have a role in the production of the film) and therefore owed no duty to plaintiff.

The Appellate Court agreed with the Superior Court’s ruling and disagreed with Angelotti’s assertion there was a triable issue of fact as to the employment relationship with Second Mate.  The Court noted both the contractual provision where in plaintiff acknowledged an employment relationship with Second Mate and also the evidence that strongly supported, and according to the Court mandated, a finding of employment with Second Mate.  Issues reviewed by the court included control of the details of employment, the right to terminate the employee, the fact Second Mate provided both supervision and all of the tools and equipment for the work performed by Angelotti, the plaintiff was paid a fixed wage for his services and that Second Mate was in the business of producing films and plaintiff was providing services in the course of the employers business.  All of these factors titled the consideration of employment so heavily toward Second Mate, the Court ruled a trier of fact could not, as a matter of law; rule plaintiff was not an employee.

“Viewing the evidence as a whole, we conclude that the only reasonable inference is that Angelotti was an employee of Second Mate.  The workers’ compensation exclusivity rule therefore precludes any tort remedy against Second Mate or Stephan, and summary judgment in favor of those defendants was proper.”

The result in this case is certainly not surprise as to Second Mate and Stephens given the rather clear employment relationship that existed.  Plaintiff probably though he had a better chance at imposing vicarious liability on the companies who dealt with Second Mate rather than any realistic chance at evading the exclusive remedy rule.


In another matter of great interest to the Workers’ Comp community as a whole, the 1st Appellate District has finally set the Ogilvie v W.C.A.B/ City & County of SF v W.C.A.B. cases for oral argument.  The cases will be heard at the court on April 13, 2011 at 9:00 am before Division 3 of the Court.  Each case has its own setting which may mean there will be an allowance for more time than the usual oral argument (the court has granted the writs filed by both defendants and applicant in this matter).

Given the complexities of the FEC issues the arguments in these cases may end up being some of the more technical discussion the court is likely to hear in a WC case.

© Copyright 2011 Richard M. Jacobsmeyer. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


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  • 02-16-2012

go go power rangers