State News : Delaware

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On June 28, 2018, claimant allegedly suffered an injury to his right eye. A Petition was filed shortly before the expiration of the statute of limitations in 2020, and it named Benchmark Builders as the claimant’s employer. During the course of discovery, claimant indicated he was injured while working at a specific development in Middletown, Delaware, and identified blueprints and photographs as evidence of same. Benchmark denied the claim, as they never employed the claimant and did not believe the accident could have occurred when and where alleged.
At a Hearing, the evidence presented that claimant was brought to the jobsite by an individual, Onellas Morales; who provided tools and instructions. No one knew who he worked for, and his van had no logos or lettering. In addition, he paid the workers in cash. Claimant introduced the blueprints and photographs as evidence that he worked for Benchmark at the Middletown development. However, the Employer then testified and reviewed the documents – the blueprints were dated as being created in 2019, the year after the accident. The development in question broke ground in 2019 and was an open field in June 2018. The photographs showed houses that did not match the blueprints, and they lacked any signage relating to Benchmark.
The Board denied claimant’s Petition, finding no evidence he worked for Benchmark or was even injured at a Benchmark job site. The Board also considered a theory of liability under 19 Del. C. § 2311, which can hold a general contractor responsible when the subcontractor lacks valid Delaware workers’ compensation insurance. However, claimant could not prove any chain of employment linking back to Benchmark. To succeed under Section 2311, claimant must prove he worked for Benchmark or a subcontractor (or even a sub-subcontractor) of Benchmark on a Benchmark worksite. Because no one knew who brought on Mr. Morales or where the injury occurred, claimant’s Petition was denied outright.
Should you have any questions regarding this Decision, please contact Nick Bittner, or any other Attorney in our Workers’ Compensation Department.
Denilson Mendez v. Benchmark Builders, IAB No. 1496799 (Feb. 2, 2022).