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Frohlick Crane v. Mack

Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc
Jun 4, 1973
510 P.2d 891 (Colo. 1973)

Summary

In Frohlick, like in Chartier, a general contractor's employee was injured by the negligence of the subcontractor's employee.

Summary of this case from Pulsifer v. Pueblo Professional Contractors

Opinion

No. C-323

Decided June 4, 1973. Rehearing denied June 25, 1973.

Action by plaintiff, who had accepted workmen's compensation from general contractor, against subcontractor for negligence. Trial court granted subcontractor's motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claim. The Court of Appeals 31 Colo. App. 457, 505 P.2d 36, reversed and certiorari was granted.

Affirmed

1. WORKERS' COMPENSATIONCrane — Injury — Employee — General Contractor — — Subcontractor — Employer — Negative — Suite — Proper. Were plaintiff, allegedly struck by crane and injured, was an employee of general contractor engaged on a demolition project, and defendant was a subcontractor who furnished a crane for the project together with employees to operate and service it, subcontractor was not immune from negligence suit by plaintiff, since subcontractor was not in any sense an "employer" of plaintiff and had no responsibility to plaintiff under the Workers' Compensation Act; the Act has no application.

2. STATUTESInterpretation — Legislative Intent. Statutory interpretation must be governed by legislative intent.

3. Intent of Legislature — Frustrate — Prohibition. No court should interpret a statute in such a manner as to frustrate the intent of the legislature.

4. WORKERS' COMPENSATIONPrimary Purpose. The primary purpose of the Workers' Compensation Act is to afford workmen compensation for job-related injuries, regardless of fault.

5. Statutory Scheme — Negligence — Lack of Negligence — Recovery — Employer — Immunity — Common Law. The statutory scheme of the Workers' Compensation Act grants the employee compensation from the employer, even though the employee may be negligent and even if the employer is not negligent; and in return, the employer who is responsible under the Act is granted immunity from common-law claims.

6. Act — Shield — Tort-feasors — Negligence — Negative. The Workers' Compensation Act is not to shield tort-feasors from liability for damages resulting from their negligence.

7. Employer — Immunity — Assumption — Workman — Job-Related Injuries. The employer under the Workers' Compensation Act is immunized from claims for tortious injuries only because he assumes the burden of compensating a workman for all job-related injuries.

8. Contracting-Out — Employer — Responsibility — Uninsured Subcontractor. To implement the general purpose of the Workers' Compensation laws, C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, was enacted to prevent an employer from avoiding responsibility under the Workers' Compensation Act by contracting-out his work to an uninsured subcontractor.

9. Employer — Responsible — Subcontractors — Employees — Contracted-Out. The Workers' Compensation Act makes an employer responsible for subcontractors and their employees when the employer has contracted-out part of his regular business.

10. Subcontractor — Employees — Employer — Contracts — Others — Work. C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, provides that a subcontractor and his employees are deemed to be employees of the employer who contracts for others to do his work.

11. Subcontractor — Free of Responsibility — Negligence — Negative. The legislature did not intend that a subcontractor should be free of responsibility for his own negligence or the negligence of his employees.

12. Subcontractor — Sued — Employee of General Contractor. A subcontractor may be sued by an employee of a general contractor.

Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals

Darwin D. Coit, for petitioner.

Almon and Barsotti, for respondent.


The plaintiff, Arthur Mack, was employed by the B L Wrecking Company as a workman on a demolition project. The defendant, Frohlick Crane Service, Inc., contracted with B L Wrecking Company, who was the general contractor, to furnish a crane and to provide the employees to operate and service the crane. Mack brought suit against Frohlick for injuries which he allegedly suffered as a result of the negligence of the employees of Frohlick in the operation of the crane. He also claimed, and was paid, Workers' Compensation by the B L Wrecking Company, through its insurance carrier, the State Compensation Insurance Fund.

The issue before us is whether the trial court properly granted Frohlick's motion for summary judgment dismissing Mack's negligence claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. Mack v. Frohlick Crane Service, Inc., 31 Colo. App. 457, 505 P.2d 36 (1972). We granted certiorari and now affirm the Court of Appeals.

Our result is predicated upon an interpretation of C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1 and C.R.S. 1963, 81-13-8. C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, provides that an employer who contracts-out part of his work to a subcontractor is deemed to be the employer of the subcontractor and his employees for Workers' Compensation purposes. C.R.S. 1963, 81-13-8, permits an employee to bring suit for job-related injuries against those persons "not in the same employ." The trial court, in dismissing Mack's negligence suit against Frohlick, held that Mack was suing his co-employee under the statutory language of C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, and that such a suit was prohibited by C.R.S. 1963, 81-13-8.

The statute has been amended in ways not germane to this discussion. 1971 Perm Supp., C.R.S. 1963, 81-13-8; 1969 Perm Supp., C.R.S. 1963, 81-13-8.

[1] The Court of Appeals held that Frohlick was not immune from suit by Mack, because Frohlick was not Mack's employer and had no responsibility to Mack under the Workers' Compensation law. In short, there was no employer-employee relationship between Frohlick and Mack, and therefore, the Workers' Compensation Act has no application. We agree with the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the statute.

[2,3] We would be overriding the obvious intent of the legislature if we were to interpret the statutory provisions as the trial court did. If we treated Frohlick as Mack's co-employee in this case, we would be exalting form over substance. It is elementary that statutory interpretation must be governed by legislative intent. Johnston v. City of Greenwood Village, 177 Colo. 223, 493 P.2d 651 (1972). No court should interpret a statute in such a manner as to frustrate the intent of the legislature. Dillon Sons v. Carrington, 169 Colo. 242, 455 P.2d 201 (1969).

[4-7] The primary purpose of the Workers' Compensation Act is to afford workmen compensation for job-related injuries, regardless of fault. The statutory scheme grants the employee compensation from the employer, even though the employee may be negligent and even if the employer is not negligent. In return, the employer who is responsible under the Workers' Compensation Act is granted immunity from common-law claims. However, our Workers' Compensation Act is not to shield third-party tort-feasors from liability for damages resulting from their negligence. E.g., Wilson v. Smith, 110 Colo. 68, 130 P.2d 1053 (1942). The employer is immunized from claims for tortious injuries only because he assumes the burden of compensating a workman for all job-related injuries. See Great Western Company v. Erbes, 148 Colo. 566, 367 P.2d 329 (1961).

[8-10] To implement the general purpose of the Workers' Compensation laws, C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, was enacted to prevent an employer from avoiding responsibility under the Workers' Compensation Act by contracting-out his work to an uninsured subcontractor. The statute makes an employer responsible for subcontractors and their employees when the employer has contracted-out part of his regular business. C.R.S. 1963, 81-9-1, provides that a subcontractor and his employees are deemed to be employees of the employer who contracts for others to do his work.

[11] The legislature, however, did not intend that a subcontractor should be free of responsibility for his own negligence or the negligence of his employees.

[12] We have previously held that a subcontractor may be sued by an employee of a general contractor. Chartier v. Winslow Crane Service, 142 Colo. 294, 350 P.2d 1044 (1960). Our decision is also in line with the great weight of authority which recognizes that subcontractors are subject to suit by employees of the general contractor. See Larson, Workers' Compensation Law § 72.32.

Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals.

MR. JUSTICE GROVES does not participate.


Summaries of

Frohlick Crane v. Mack

Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc
Jun 4, 1973
510 P.2d 891 (Colo. 1973)

In Frohlick, like in Chartier, a general contractor's employee was injured by the negligence of the subcontractor's employee.

Summary of this case from Pulsifer v. Pueblo Professional Contractors

stating that the primary purpose of the Act is to afford compensation for job-related injuries

Summary of this case from Horodyskyj v. Karanian

providing a fifty percent reduction in benefits under various conditions including intoxication

Summary of this case from Kiewit v. Patterson
Case details for

Frohlick Crane v. Mack

Case Details

Full title:Frohlick Crane Service, Inc. v. Arthur Mack

Court:Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc

Date published: Jun 4, 1973

Citations

510 P.2d 891 (Colo. 1973)
510 P.2d 891

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