A superior court must look more closely at the relationship between several companies in Alaskan to determine whether someone is entitled to the exclusive measures for a worker's claim for personal injury.
In James v. Alaska Frontier Constructors Inc ., The Supreme Court of Alaska on Friday agreed unanimously and upheld the lower court's decision in a case where a worker tried to recover from two companies for injuries he suffered. while he was forced to work in a blizzard.
Andy James worked for Northern Construction & Maintenance LLC, which shared the same ownership as Alaska Frontier Constructors Inc.
At the end of December 2014, Mr. James to work on an ice road where the company Nanuq Inc. worked as a construction contractor. He was ordered by Nanuq employee Scott Pleas to check the fuel levels of some idle equipment despite the blizzard conditions and claims that he was threatened with dismissal if he did not comply. As he climbed onto a large highway razor to burn it, a gust of wind blew him down, injuring his shoulders and spine during the fall. He received workers' compensation benefits from Northern Construction.
He filed a lawsuit against Alaska Frontier and Nanuq for carefully and skillfully sending workers to dangerous conditions. A superior court granted the companies a summary judgment and James appealed.
The Supreme Court of Alaska upheld the decision of the Supreme Court. It noted that since Northern Construction paid Mr James' workers' compensation claims, it was protected by the workers' compensation law's exclusive liability provision. But for the exclusive liability clause to exclude his claims against Nanuq and Alaska Frontier, the companies would have had to both agree with Northern Construction, or if they were not joint ventures, they must have been suppliers or subcontractors for statutory immunity, the court said.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to make these decisions. It found that the "presentations of evidence" told it "nothing about the actual contractual arrangements" and that the Supreme Court erred in speculating on the relationship between the companies.