A man sustained severe personal injuries during the course of his employment when he fell from a ladder in a warehouse owned by the accused warehouse corporation. He commenced an action alleging negligence and violations of Labor Law. The warehouse corporation brought a third-party action against the Dollar Store in Westchester which is the man’s employer to seek common-law and contractual indemnification. In two separate motions, the employer moved for summary judgment to dismiss the third-party complaint. Supreme Court denied both motions, finding issues of fact as to whether, under the Workers’ Compensation Law the man sustained a grave brain injuryand whether the employer had contractually agreed to indemnify the warehouse corporation.
Workers’ Compensation Law permits an owner to bring a third-party claim against an injured worker’s employer in only two circumstances: when the injured worker has suffered a grave brain injury or the employer has entered into a written contract to indemnify the owner. The employer asserts that the warehouse corporation failed to raise an issue of fact as to the applicability of either exception to the prohibition against third-party claims against the employers.
A grave injury is defined, in relevant part, as an acquired brain injury caused by an external physical force resulting in permanent total disability. Although the statute does not define permanent total disability, the Court of Appeals has determined that a brain injury results in permanent total disability under the Workers’ Compensation Law when the evidence establishes that the injured worker is no longer employable in any capacity. Even the employer sustained its initial burden of establishing as a matter of law that the man did not sustain a grave injury, the evidence submitted in opposition to the motion was sufficient to raise a triable question of fact.