Koehl v. Tri-State Maritime Services, Inc. - Motion for Summary Judgment Granted!

Koehl v. Tri-State Maritime Services, Inc. – Motion for Summary Judgment Granted

Federal court grants stevedoring company’s motion for summary judgment on negligence claim of  temporary worker supplied by labor broker based on exclusive remedy provided by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) upon finding that company was worker’s borrowed employer, worker was injured while engaged in maritime employment, and company did not waive its immunity under the LHWCA.

Koehle v. Tri-State Maritime Services, Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-00297-RH-GRJ (In the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Panama City Division Nov. 12, 2017)

Koehle, who was injured when a stack of copper fell on him severing his ear, brought a negligence action against Tri-State, who had hired Koehle as a temporary worker through a labor broker to assist with vessel discharge operations at the Port of Panama City, Florida.  Tri-State moved for dismissal of the complaint on the grounds that Koehle’s tort claim was barred by the LHWCA.  It argued, that the LHWCA provides the exclusive remedy for employees engaged In maritime employment who are injured on the job.

Koehle argued that Tri-State waived its tort immunity based on one sentence contained in a six paragraph “Conditions of Service” on the back of the work ticket Koehle had to present to Tri-State when he reported for work to track his hours for payment purposes.

The Court determined it was undisputed that Tri-State was Koehle’s “borrowed employer” under the Act because Koehle consented to being Tri-State’s borrowed employee,  was employed to do Tri-State’s work when he was injured; and (3) Tri-State had assumed the right to control the manner and details of Koehle’s work at the time he was injured.

The Court also determined that Koehle’s assertion that Tri-State waived its immunity because of one sentence on the back of the work ticket which stated “[Tri-State] agrees to waive any immunity provided by Worker’s Compensation or other industrial insurance laws” was without merit.  The Court noted that Koehle improperly focused on one sentence and failed to read the terms of the contract as a whole which establish that the waiver sentence was an indemnity agreement between Tri-State and the labor broker only.

Based upon these uncontroverted facts and evidence, the Court concluded that Tri-State did not waive immunity under the LHWCA therefore barring Koehle’s tort claim.

The Motion was written by Schuyler Smith and Joseph Gangi and Oral Argument was presented by Schuyler Smith.