Friday, October 21, 2011

Property Owner Not an “Up the Ladder” Employer

Property Owner not an “Up the Ladder” Employer
     Old Taylor Partners, LLC v. Rueda, No. 2011-CA-000054-WC (Ky. App. Oct. 14, 2011) addressed the question as to whether a property owner who contracted for demolition would be an “up the ladder” employer liable for workers’ compensation payments to an injured worker.  The Court of Appeals determined in the negative.
     Old Taylor Partners, LLC acquired a former distillery property with the intention of dismantling and selling the building materials and equipment and then developing the property.  It contracted with G&B Demolition LLC to actually perform the demolition services.  Rueda, an employee of G&B, was injured in the course of the demolition and was ultimately determined to be 100% occupationally disabled.  Although not addressed in the opinion, it was presumably the case that G&B Demolition did not maintain the required worker’s compensation coverage.  For that reason, the question came to be whether Old Taylor Partners, LLC was the “up the ladder” employer of Rueda under KRS § 342.610.
     While the ALJ determined that Old Taylor was not an “up the ladder” employer, the Workers’ Compensation Board held to the contrary, basing its opinion on testimony that the purpose of Old Taylor was to demolish and sell the properties of the Old Taylor distillery, determining therefrom that demolition must be a “regular or recurrent” part of its activities.  The Court of Appeals indicates that the Board’s determination was based in part on the fact that Old Taylor could have hired employees to directly do the demolition.
     Ultimately, it was determined that Old Taylor Partners, LLC was not an “up the ladder” employer.  Not having any employees itself, it was “not engaged in the business of employing persons to disassemble physical structures, to move pallets of wood or other materials nor to operate a crane which injured Rueda.”  Slip op. at 6.  Ultimately, the purpose of Old Taylor Partners was to generate a return on investment, not engage in the business of demolition and salvage.  On that basis, it was not Rueda’s employer.

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