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At a Glance:
City of Bellaire v. Johnson
June 7, 2013
400 S.W.3d 922
Texas Supreme Court
Published Opinion

City of Bellaire v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Texas.

CITY OF BELLAIRE and Rosa Larson, Petitioners,


Elbert JOHNSON, Respondent.

No. 11–0933.


June 7, 2013.

Attorneys & Firms

*922 Patricia L. Hayden, Houston, TX, for Petitioner City of Bellaire and Rosa Larson.

Lennon C. Wright, Sean K. McPherson, Houston, TX, for Respondent Elbert Johnson.



The Texas Labor Code provides that “[r]ecovery of workers’ compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers’ compensation insurance.” 352 S.W.3d 260 (Tex.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 2011). We reverse and render.

Magnum Staffing Services, Inc. furnished workers for the City of Bellaire. One was Elbert Johnson. The City paid Magnum for its services, which in turn paid Johnson, based on the hours he reported to the City. The City set Johnson’s work schedule, gave him his assignments, and supervised his work. Magnum had no role in overseeing Johnson’s work. Magnum provided Johnson with workers’ compensation coverage. Also, the City was required by Section 504.001(2)(A) to include “a person in [its] service ... who has been employed as provided by law.”

Johnson lost an arm working on a garbage truck driven by Rosa Larson, an employee of the City, and sued the City and Larson. The City and Larson filed a plea to the jurisdiction and motion for summary judgment, asserting governmental immunity based in part on the exclusive remedy under 352 S.W.3d at 265.

The undisputed evidence does establish as a matter of law that the City controlled the details of Johnson’s work and thus, that Johnson was its employee. Lyons v. Texas A & M Univ., 545 S.W.2d 56 (Tex.Civ.App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1976, writ ref’d n.r.e.)). The court of appeals in the present case would have applied the same rule here except for its conclusion that a fact question subsisted whether Johnson was actually covered by the City’s workers’ compensation insurance.

We disagree with the court of appeals that there is any issue whether Johnson was a “paid employee” of the City within the meaning of its interlocal agreement, the purpose of which was to provide the statutorily required workers’ compensation coverage to its employees. Johnson was certainly paid, but he argues he was paid by Magnum, not the City. Because he was not paid by the City or by the hour, Johnson argues, he was not a “paid employee” under TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM.CODE § 101.106(e) (“If a suit is filed under this chapter against both a governmental unit and any of its employees, the employees shall immediately be dismissed on the filing of a motion by the governmental unit.”).

Accordingly, we grant the City’s petition for review, and without hearing oral argument, TEX.R.APP. P. 59.1, reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render judgment dismissing Johnson’s claims against the City and Larson for want of jurisdiction.



All statutory references are to the Texas Labor Code unless otherwise noted.


We listed three exceptions that would allow private employers to “split” workforces for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage: if the employer makes different elections for separate and distinct businesses; if the employer excludes a sole proprietor, partner, or corporate executive officer, as permitted by statute, TEX. LAB.CODE §§ 504.001(2) (defining “employee” for chapter applicable to political subdivision employees), 504.012 (allowing optional coverage for, inter alia, elected officials), 504.013 (allowing optional coverage for trustees and staff of self-insurance funds), and 504.014 (excluding, inter alia, persons paid on a piecework basis, or on a basis other than by the hour, day, week, or month); see also, e.g., id. §§ 501.001(5) (defining “employee” for chapter applicable to most state employees), and 501.024 (excluding, inter alia, independent contractors).

End of Document