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Tort reform requires companies to act responsibly, but as long as a company is motivated by profit, they will not. Here is another example.

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James E. Ballidis
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A Los Angeles jury awarded four million dollars to a cinematographer injured on the job during the filming of Flight of the Phoenix.  He had at all times prior to his accident been an independent contractor of Fox and Flight Productions Inc.  The distinction is an important one: an independent contractor pays his own taxes, social security, retirement benefits, health insurance and self-employment tax.  Corporations that employ independent contractors save huge amounts of money.

The plaintiff, Ciaran Barry, was struck by a prop, which caused him significant injury including broken legs and permanent nerve damage.  He would never work as a cinematographer again. 

Once the accident occurred, Fox and Flight Productions Inc. demanded that Mr. Barry be considered an employee under workers’ compensation laws.  Workers’ compensation laws significantly limit the amount of recovery available to an injured worker.  It is no-fault compromise system that is designed to cover workers for injury if they are injured on the job.  Because it is a compromise system, without fault, the recovery amounts are strongly reduced.  As an example a wrongful death case only pays $350,000 no matter how much money and how needed the worker was to the family.  

In this case, a workers’ compensation case would have substantially less value.  The court, and jury, properly concluded that Barry was an independent contractor given the factual evidence at trial of his independent status prior to the injury.  However, this case shows us the often-overlooked side of corporations, the desire to put their interests over the injured person.  To put this loss onto worker’s compensation, the company can continue to pay less for insurance, and save all the fees and liability caused by their negligent and dangerous practices.  

Corporations will always attempt to mitigate their damages at the expense of injured victims, which is the reason that tort reform and limitations on liability simply do not work.

Category: Car Accidents

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