HOUSTON – A trial court’s take-nothing ruling for a man injured on the job was reversed in the 14th Court of Appeals on June 26 as the court ruled on borrowed employee status and loss of future wages reward.
The appeals court ruled the 269th District Court for Harris County incorrectly conflicted with the jury’s verdict to reward Wesley Fredieu with more than $1.7 million after he was injured while working for W&T Offshore Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011. The jury also found it was W&T’s negligence that resulted in Fredieu’s injuries.
A key point of contention was the trial court’s decision to disregard the jury’s decision that Fredieu was not a “borrowed employee” for W&T when he was hurt.
This was a major factor in the result of the case considering if Fredieu was a borrowed employee, he was blocked from being able to make claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Fredieu appealed the lower court’s decision with the appeals court.
The appeals court decided there was enough proof to back the jury’s answer that Fredieu was not a borrowed employee as well as the $950,000 reward for future lost earning capacity that W&T challenged. This amount was based on Fredieu’s reduced ability to complete physical tasks after his injury.
W&T requested the lower court remove the borrowed employee question as irrelevant and asked for a take-nothing judgment, both of which were granted. The appeals court disagreed that it was unimportant and pointed out evidence such as witness testimony and contracts supported the jury’s decision.
“Therefore, the jury’s ‘No’ answer on borrowed employee status must be upheld,” the opinion stated.
As for the $950,000 for Fredieu’s loss for future earning capacity, W&T said that amount was too high considering he went back to work after he recovered, and that he earns more hourly plus a per diem with his new employer, despite his injury. Still, Fredieu’s orthopedic doctor confirmed that he will always suffer from a limited range of motion, is unable to lift more than 40 pounds, and will experience ongoing pain in his arm from the injury.
While W&T also brought an expert that challenged Fredieu’s witness’s testimony, the appeals court sided with Fredieu. It said there was enough evidence to prove that Fredieu’s injury would impact his ability to bring in wages.
The appeals court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded for entry of judgment.