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Labor & Employment –  Asbestos Exposure – Workers’ Compensation Act – Exclusive Remedy – Statutory Employee

Contractor who performed pipe installation in a manufacturer’s plants was a statutory employee where construction was an integral part of the manufacturer’s business as it regularly engaged in construction and maintained a construction division and the manufacturer would not have been able to create its product without facilities.

We grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the WCA is decedent’s sole remedy and that his claim is barred under the act’s statute of repose.

Decedent worked for AC&S, a company that contracted with defendant to perform asbestos installation on pipes in defendant’s facilities. Decedent performed this installation work, which exposed him to asbestos. Although defendant primarily hired outside contractors to perform installation work, it also used its own employees to perform such work as an incidental task. However, defendant considered the installation work a normal and important part of its operations and business activities.

Decedent filed a complaint against defendant, alleging he developed lung cancer due to breathing in asbestos-containing products. Defendant ultimately filed the present motion for summary judgment, arguing that decedent’s exclusive remedy was a claim under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act because decedent was a “statutory employee”. Defendant further argued that the WCA contained a statute of repose for occupational diseases with long-latency periods such as decedent’s cancer.

We grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment. We hold that decedent’s work of installing insulated pipes was an important part of defendant’s business as part of the construction of plants, noting that defendant maintained a construction department. We rule that, where a manufacturer carries on an ongoing program of construction or maintained a construction division within the company, construction work, including work delegated to a contractor, could be considered an integral part of the manufacturer’s trade or business. We further note that defendant’s corporate charter identified construction as included in its business and that defendant regularly assigned its employees to perform pipe installation as an incidental task.

Even if construction were not a part of defendant’s business, we hold that decedent’s work was necessary, essential, and integral to defendant because defendant could not manufacture its products without properly functioning facilities. We note that decedent acknowledged that, without the installation work he performed, defendant would not have been able to manufacture its products. Accordingly, we rule that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether decedent was a statutory employee.

Summary judgment granted.

Matthews v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co. (Lawyers Weekly No. 002-213-18, 19 pp.) (Harwell, J.) 4:16-cv-02934-RBH D.S.C.

 

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