Collins v. Seko Charlotte: Workers’ Compensation and Subcontractors

Collins v. Seko Charlotte, a case from the Supreme Court of South Carolina, involved a claimant who was killed while working for a delivery company. He was returning to South Carolina from a delivery in the Midwest when he was involved in a fatal car accident.

crash4.jpgAt the time of death, claimant was working for a company directly and doing work for another company that had entered into a contract with his employer. Following fatal work-related accident, his family filed a workers’ compensation claim against both companies and insurance carriers for both companies. After a hearing, commissioner determined the company his employer had contracted with (contract employer) was his employer for purposes of workers’ compensation pursuant to section 42-1-410 of the South Carolina Code.

Contract employer and its workers’ compensation insurance company appealed this decision. This appeal was made to the workers’ compensation commission appeals panel. As our Anderson, South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, when a single commissioner hears a matter and renders a decision, an unhappy party has a statutory right to file an appeal within the time limit provided, requesting a hearing before the panel.

The panel applied the four-part test pursuant to South Carolina workers’ compensation law to determine whether an independent subcontractor or the primary contractor is liable for workers’ compensation benefits following an employee injury or, in this case, death.

After applying four-part test, the Workers’ Compensation appeals panel determined employer was liable under the workers’ compensation system and not contract employer in this matter. The panel therefore reversed and remanded single commissioner’s ruling.

At this point, claimant’s family appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals, and, during this appeal, court concluded appeals panel had used the wrong test, as it was not a question of whether it was a subcontractor or contractor, but whether or not claimant was a statutory employee. After a hearing, Court of Appeal reversed and remanded Workers’ Compensation appeals panel’s reversal, thus reinstating single commissioner’s ruling.

Following this appeal and order, contract employer filed an appeal with Supreme Court for the State of South of Carolina. The court granted certiorari, as this was a discretionary appeal. During this appeal, South Carolina Supreme Court reviewed the entire record, including a new look at the facts contained in the record.

After reviewing the record and hearing argument, the South Carolina Supreme Court ultimately concluded Court of Appeals was correct in holding Workers’ Compensation had erred in applying the subcontractor test as opposed to the statutory employee test. Moreover, claimant was a statutory employee of contract employer based upon the fact it had told control of claimant’s manner of performance, and employer had no direct control of claimant’s performance.

For these reasons, South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Court of Appeals reinstatement of single commissioner’s original ruling finding contract employer was liable for workers’ compensation. In this case, since claimant was killed during his on-the-job car accident, appropriate compensation was a workers’ compensation death benefits award pursuant to South Carolina law.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Collins v. Seko Charlotte , April 2, 2015, South Carolina Suprem Court

More Blog Entries:
Bike v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care – Workers’ Comp Benefits in Spite of Underlying Injury, March 28, 2015, Anderson Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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