The mother of a worker who died in a tractor accident could not show that his employer's actions were so unfortunate that they fell outside the exclusivity clause of the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act.
Hidalgo v. Erosion Control Services Inc. The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously agreed on a court decision that would have allowed the mother to continue with her claim of negligence.
Jesus Enrique Hidalgo worked for Erosion Control Services Inc., Which provides soil and sediment control for construction projects. On July 20, 2016, while driving a tractor on a slope at a construction site, the tractor rolled; he was thrown out and fatally injured when the tractor rolled on top of him.
His mother, Guadalupe Hidalgo, filed a complaint against Erosion Control, claiming that the company was negligent in replacing its tractor seat with one without a seat belt and failed to carry out safety procedures that would have prohibited her son from using the tractor in a slope.
Mr. Hidalgo's supervisor said he was not aware that the seat lacked a seat belt when he ordered the replacement from eBay and was not when his crew unpacked and installed the seat. He also said that on the day of the accident, there was no reason for Hidalgo to drive on the slope because it was outside the designated project area.
The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health cited Erosion Control for lack of safety and tractor safety measures, but the investigator found no evidence that Mr. Hidalgo had been targeted in the area where the accident occurred or working on the slope.
The company claimed that Hidalgo's lawsuit should be dismissed because it fell within the exclusive remedy of the State Workers' Compensation Act, but the lawsuit rejected its proposal for a summary judgment.
The Court of Appeal reversed the decision and held that Hidalgo failed to show that the actions of the Company and the supervisor were so unfortunate as to show that her allegations fell outside the exclusivity provisions of the law.
The court found that the record was "missing" for any indication that Mr Hidalgo had been directed to drive the tractor to the slope where the accident occurred and also showed that no work took place in this area on the day of the accident.
Although Hidalgo claimed that the company and her son's supervisor knew the tractor seat was missing a seat belt, the Court of Appeal held that even if it were true, it would not meet the threshold for falling outside the exclusive fine.
The Court of Appeal therefore ruled that the trial was in breach of the company's proposal for a brief assessment and reversed the decision and detained the case.