A Texas appeals court has ruled that a workers’ comp “non-subscriber” is not liable for negligence, despite failing to perform a criminal background check on a worker who assaulted another employee. Ramiro Najera worked at American Rice Inc. in Freeport, Texas, through staffing company Recana Solutions L.L.C. James Prodoehl, who reported to Najera, was also placed at American Rice by Recana Solutions.
According to a Business Insurance report, in June 2012, after the two men had worked together for about three months, Najera told his subordinates that they would need to work late. Prodoehl refused and Najera threatened to report him. In response, Prodoehl beat Najera with a hard hat which resulted in injuries to Najera’s teeth and shoulder. Recana immediately terminated Prodoehl but, as a Texas nonsubscriber, the company did not carry workers’ comp insurance at the time of the incident. Najera later sued for negligence, gross negligence and respondeat superior (which states that an employer is responsible for its employees’ actions in the course of employment.) American Rice settled but Recana argued that they had no duty to perform a background check because Prodoehl was not in a position involving the risk of “heightened confrontation.” The 14th Texas Court of Appeals in Houston upheld the trial court’s ruling in Recana’s favor last week.
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