The Dallas Court of Appeals has upheld a trial court order granting summary judgment in favor of an employer based on the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation.

Santa Trevino and Cesar Trevino v. Jalapeno Tree Operating, LLC (No. 05-23-00086-CV; February 21, 2024) arose from injuries suffered by an employee who slipped and fell while on the job at a Jalapeno Tree restaurant in Gun Barrel City. The employer’s workers’ compensation insurer, Texas Mutual, accepted the employee’s claim and offered temporary income benefits and medical benefits, which the employee accepted. Texas Mutual ceased paying income benefits when the employee was cleared for light-duty work by her treating physician. The employee and her husband subsequently filed a claim for additional benefits. A state-appointed physician evalated her and determined that she reached maximum medical improvement in July 2020, about two months after her fall. The physician assigned a 1% impairment rating, upon which Texas Mutual paid impairment income benefits. Plaintiffs then filed suit against the employer, asserting negligence, premises liability, and loss of consortium. The employer moved for summary judgment based on the exclusive-remedy defense. The trial court granted the motion. Plaintiffs appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed. Plaintiffs argued that the comp bar did not apply because the employer did not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance at the time of the accident. Instead, the policy listed Golden Operating Company as the insured. The court, however, noted that Golden Operating listed the employer as an additional insured, which constitutes “sufficient summary judgment proof of workers’ compensation coverage” (citations omitted). Plaintiffs argued further that because TDI could not locate proof of workers’ compensation documentation upon request raised a fact question as to coverage. Nevertheless, the court determined, TDI’s letter “does not state that Jalapeno Tree was not covered, only that no documentation could be found. This letter, therefore, does not contradict the summary judgment evidence offered by Jalapeno Tree.” Consequently, the summary judgment proof of the policy and Texas Mutual’s affidavits affirming coverage conclusive established the existence of coverage.

Dilara Muslu, TCJL’s Research Intern, provided research and writing support for this article.

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