A subsidiary of Dillard’s Inc. has not proven it is immune from a lawsuit brought by a worker who tripped on his way out of the store, a Kentucky appeals court ruled Friday in overturning a grant of summary judgment based on the state’s exclusive remedy provisions .
When she fell in 2019, Betty Oard was working part-time at the Dillard’s department store in Crestview Hills Town Center in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. Higbee Co. owns this Dillard’s location and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dillard’s Inc, and Dillard’s had workers’ compensation insurance, which listed Higbee as a named insured, according to Oard v. The Higbee Company, filed in the Court of Appeals of Kentucky.
After filing a claim with Dillard̵7;s as her employer, which accepted the claim, she later filed a negligence lawsuit against Higbee and other parties associated with the management of the property, without naming her direct employer, Dillard’s, as a defendant.
Higbee filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Kentucky immunized it from liability by reason of exclusive indemnity. A circuit court agreed and entered judgment.
The appeals court disagreed, saying that “Higbee’s status as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dillard’s is not in itself sufficient to immunize it from suit.”
The court, after remanding the case to a lower court, said there are legal issues of employment and that “(a)s to the initial inquiry, Higbee was clearly not Oard’s direct employer. As Oard notes in her letter, Dillard paid her and directed her employment. Nothing in the record indicates that Higbee ever gave directions to Oard or otherwise engaged with her as her employer. Thus, summary judgment in favor of Higbee was proper only if Higbee is a contractor—and therefore Oard’s statutory employer – as contemplated by the Kentucky labor law.