Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso
from County Court at Law No. 3 of El Paso County, Texas (TC #
McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.
CRAWFORD McCLURE, CHIEF JUSTICE
mishap in an industrial workplace injured Jesse Robles. His
regular employer, Southwest Staffing, had sent him as a
temporary worker to Mount Franklin Food, LLC, that does
business as Azar Nut Company (hereinafter "Azar
Nut"). It was an Azar Nut employee that allegedly caused
the industrial accident resulting in Robles's injury.
Southwest Staffing's workers' compensation carrier
accepted Robles's claim and paid him medical and
indemnity benefits. Robles then sued Azar Nut, who prevailed
on the trial court to dismiss the suit based on the exclusive
remedy provisions of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act.
We affirm that decision.
Nut runs a food processing plant. It has its own employees,
but apparently needs temporary help. So, it turned to
Southwest Staffing who provides temporary workers under a
contract that specifies the terms of that arrangement. Robles
was such a temporary worker. While performing his job on
April 2, 2015, he was injured when a regular Azar Nut
employee, Alejandro Galvez, misloaded a large bag of nuts
using a forklift. A hook apparatus fell on Robles injuring
him. He pursued two avenues of relief. First, he filed a
workers' compensation claim with Texas Mutual Insurance
Company under an insurance policy secured by Southwest
Staffing. Second, he filed a lawsuit against both Azar Nut
and Galvez. That suit alleges that Galvez was negligent in
operating the forklift. It also alleged the Azar Nut, through
its employees, agents, contractors and representative was
negligent in various ways, some specific to the use of the
forklift, and some more general, such as failures to warn,
inspect, train, supervise, and enforce safety regulations.
The suit also alleged Azar Nut was negligent in hiring
Galvez, and in entrusting a forklift to him.
Nut and Galvez answered, asserting as an affirmative defense
that Robles's claim was barred by the exclusive remedy
provision in the Texas Workers' Compensation Act
("TWCA"). Tex.Lab.Code Ann. § 408.001(a).
Through an amended petition, Robles dropped Galvez as a party
and asserted claims solely against Azar Nut.
Nut then filed the pleading that leads to this appeal. In
what was labeled its "Plea to the Jurisdiction and
Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Motion to Abate"
Azar Nut argued that Robles's sole remedy was the
recovery of benefits under Southwest Staffing's
workers' compensation policy. The motion was premised on
Section 406.034 of the Labor Code that provides:
For workers' compensation insurance purposes, if a
temporary employment service elects to obtain workers'
compensation insurance, the client of the temporary
employment service and the temporary employment service are
subject to Sections 406.034 and 408.001.
Tex. Lab.Code Ann. § 93.004(b). In turn, Section 408.001
provides that workers' compensation benefits are an
employee's exclusive remedy:
Recovery of workers' compensation benefits is the
exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers'
compensation insurance coverage or a legal beneficiary
against the employer or an agent or employee of the employer
for the death of or a work-related injury sustained by the
Id. at § 408.001(a).
Nut's motion was supported by the affidavit of its human
resource officer who swore that Southwest Staffing assigns
"temporary employees to work temporary employment
positions" at Azar Nut per an agreement between the two.
Further, Jesse Robles was such a temporary employee on the
date he was injured. The motion was also supported by an
affidavit of a senior manager from Texas Mutual Insurance
Company who provides workers' compensation coverage to
Southwest Staffing. That affidavit proved up and attached the
Southwest Staffing's workers' compensation insurance
policy in effect on the date of the accident. That policy
also included "Alternate Employer Endorsement" that
named Azar Nut as an insured. The affidavit also documents that
Robles actually filed a claim under the workers'
compensation policy and successfully collected medical and
income benefits. Robles filed a response raising several
issues that we discuss below. The trial court granted Azar
Nut's motion and dismissed the case.
TO THE JURISDICTION ...