An insurance company with general liability has no obligation to defend a "pro bono" contractor for the injuries suffered by a church worker at his workplace, a right of appeal held on Tuesday.
I Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v Arpin & Sons LLC, the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously affirmed a district court ruling that the contractor was considered the employee's employer for workers' compensation purposes and fell outside the obligation to defend the provisions of general liability insurance.
Faith Deliverance Church in Miami entered into a verbal agreement with a licensed Florida general contractor, Arpin & Sons LLC, to carry out "pro bono" work on its construction project building a residential unit for the elderly. Arpin maintained an employee's compensation policy from Vinings Insurance Co. and a general liability insurance from Mid-Continent Casualty Co.
During construction, Church employee Lee Blue came in contact with an electrified concrete bucket and suffered severe, permanent damage. Arpin submitted an application for compensation for Mr. Blue, which was accepted, and Vinings continued to pay compensation for at least six years. But Blue filed a lawsuit against Arpin claiming that the contractor was negligent in its operation of the site. April sought damages from Mid Continent Casualty, which claimed that its policy precluded coverage for bodily injury to an employee that occurred during the course of the employment.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida was closed as a matter of law that the insurer did not owe Arpin any obligation to defend because of the exclusion. Arpin and Mr. Blue appealed.
The district court upheld the decision. Although Arpin and Mr. Blue claimed that Arpin only served as the nominee as main contractor, the district court did not agree and found that Arpin was liable to the property owner, carried out inspections and took some responsibility for the workers 'safety in the project via its workers' compensation policy
was Mr. Blue's statutory employer and that his injuries were excluded from coverage under the general liability policy.