Jones v. Florida Power Corp.
|06 April 1954
|72 So.2d 285
|JONES v. FLORIDA POWER CORP. et al.
|Florida Supreme Court
Farish & Farish, West Palm Beach, and Holland, Bevis & McRae, Bartow, for appellant.
Haskins & Bryant, Sebring, for appellees.
This is an appeal from a summary judgment entered in favor of defendants, appellees here, in a common-law action for damages filed by plaintiff-appellant to recover for injuries alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the defendants.
The factual background is as follows: The Florida Power Corporation ('Corporation' hereafter) entered into separate contracts with the Grinnell Company, Inc. ('Grinnell' hereafter) and Burns & Roe, Inc. ('Burns' hereafter) for the construction of an extension to the Corporation's plant at Avon Park, Florida. The contract with Grinnell recited that Grinnell was employed 'as an independent contractor * * * to furnish labor, material and equipment and erect all fabricated piping, valves, miscellaneous general piping and such other work of similar nature as may be directed by the Company Engineer'; and also that 'It is understood that you will supervise the work and job personally, use your own equipment and employ your own labor.' The Burns contract provided for the designing and supervision of construction of the plant by Burns and also that Burns would act as 'general contractor in the performance of construction and erection work, and to perform such work with their own field forces', when requested to do so by the Corporation. From exhibits filed in the record, it appears that Burns subsequently agreed to perform certain construction work on the project, although not that included in the contract with Grinnell.
The plaintiff was an employee of Grinnell. He was injured when, in the course of his employment, he was struck by an overhead crane owned by the Corporation and being operated by an employee of Burns. In his suit against the Corporation and Burns to recover for his injuries, he alleged that both Burns and Grinnell, his employer, were independent contractors with the Corporation, each engaged in construction work unrelated to that of the other, and that each was guilty of named acts of negligence proximately causing his injuries.
Burns and the Corporation defended on the principal ground that the construction job was 'an inter-related, indivisible project consisting of one business or establishment, and further the said defendant, Burns & Roe, Inc., was also employed as general contractor by defendant, Florida Power Corporation, in the performance of construction and erection work on said job;' that the work contracted to Grinnell by the Corporation was to be made 'under the direct and exclusive guidance, supervision and control of defendant, Burns & Roe, Inc.' It was also alleged in the answer that the Corporation had in its contracts with Burns and Grinnell required them to carry workmen's compensation insurance for their respective employees; that the plaintiff had received and was receiving workmen's compensation from Grinnell's insurance carrier; and that plaintiff's exclusive remedy was under the Workmen's Compensation Act of the State of Florida, F.S.A. § 440.01 et seq., 'since none of the defendants are (sic) third parties as contemplated by the Workmen's Compensation Act.'
The defendants jointly moved for a summary judgment in their favor on the ground that neither was a third party within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act, as shown by the pleadings, the depositions on file, and the affidavit accompanying their motion. Counter affidavits were filed by the plaintiff. The lower court, in ruling on this motion in defendants' favor, said:
'Upon the admitted facts and law hereinbefore set forth or referred to, it appears clearly to the undersigned Circuit Judge that Florida Power Corporation, having entered into independent contracts with Grinnell Company and Burns & Roe, respectively, and having specifically provided in each contract that the construction contractor should carry workmen's compensation to protect all employees, must be considered an employer under the meaning of the word 'employer' stated in Section 440.02, of F.S.A. as 'All public and quasi-public corporation' (and) 'every person carrying on any employment' and as a 'common employer' of all men working on the general construction project, as the word 'common employer' is used in 48 So.2d , on page 844 [Miami Roofing & Sheet Metal Co., Inc. v. Kindt], under either Grinnell Company or Burns & Roe, whether said Grinnell Company and Burns and Roe be considered as independent contractors under Florida Power Corporation or subcontractors under said Florida Power Corporation; and it appears with the same clearness that the defendant Burns & Roe is protected by workmen's compensation provided by said Florida Power Corporation through its independent contractors Grinnell Company and Burns & Ros.
'It would be utterly unfair for the Court to hold that Florida Power Corporation, being the project owner, principal contractor and 'common employer,' of all the employees of said Grinnell Company and Burns & Roe, after said common employer by its contracts had required both Grinnell Company and Burns & Roe to carry workmen's compensation for all employees working on the whole construction project, should under the circumstances of this case be considered a third party tort feasor and yet, at the same time, say to said Florida Power Corporation that if it, the Florida Power Corporation, had first employed a 'general contractor' for the whole construction project and then let the general contractor subcontract with said Grinnell Company and Burns & Roe as sub-contractors, then said Florida Power Corporation would have been relieved of the responsibility.'
The real question here is whether the Corporation is an 'employer' within the meaning of the Workmen's Compensation Act. If it is such an 'employer', then it is liable for and is required to 'secure the payment to [its] employees of the compensation payable under §§ 440.13, 440.15 and 440.16.' Section 440.10, Florida Statutes 1953, same F.S.A. If it is an 'employer', is it also a 'contractor', within...
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