Juan Castro sustained injuries when he fell out of a tree he was trimming at an apartment complex owned by Kirby Manor Corporation and managed by Hallmark Realty.
Kirby and Hallmark had an agreement that identified Hallmark as both an independent contractor hired by Kirby and Kirby’s agent. Hallmark had hired Marcos Patino to provide landscaping services, including tree-trimming, and Patino, in turn, had hired Castro to help him trim the trees.
Castro filed this negligence action against Kirby and Hallmark. He alleged that he was an employee of the defendants, that he sustained his injuries in the course of his employment, and that during his employment the defendants “failed to secure any worker’s compensation insurance coverage whatsoever to cover any workplace injuries suffered by” him. Castro alleged the defendants’ failure to obtain a worker’s compensation policy entitled him to bring a civil action for negligence under Labor Code section 3706.
Hallmark and Kirby filed a motion for summary judgment. Hallmark conceded Castro was its employee, but contended that it had workers’ compensation insurance when he suffered his injury and that therefore Castro’s exclusive remedy was through the workers’ compensation system. Hallmark submitted a true and correct copy of Hallmark’s workers’ compensation insurance policy in effect at the time of Castro’s accident.
Castro argued, even assuming “there was a valid workers’ compensation policy,” Hallmark had not produced evidence Castro “met the minimum number of hours required to qualify for workers’ compensation coverage.”
The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeal affirmed in the unpublished case of Castro v. Knowlton Manners Apartments.
The Exclusive Remedy rule ordinarily protects an employer from suits by an employee for injuries during the course of employment.
One exception to that rule appears in section 3706, which provides that an injured employee may bring a civil action for damages against “any employer [who] fails to secure the payment of compensation” under the Act, as required by section 3700. An employer complies with its obligation under section 3700 to secure the payment of compensation by either purchasing workers’ compensation insurance or self-insuring.
In a statutory action under section 3706 of the Labor Code, it is the ‘plaintiff’s obligation to plead and prove violation of section 3700 by his employer’s failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
The Court noted that “Castro cites several cases he suggests “indicate that a defendant must show a plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits for the claimed injuries, before a plaintiff can be barred from pursuing a damages action for the same injuries.” None of those cases, however, says anything like that.”