Court Says Film Studio Worker Bound by Exclusive Remedy Rule

By Staff Report

Jan. 15, 2008

The workers’ compensation exclusive remedy rule bars a Hollywood grip who lost two fingertips while working on the television show Dragnet from suing Universal City Studios, an appeals court affirmed.

California’s 2nd Appellate District ruled Thursday, January 10, in Christopher Carpenter v. Universal City Studios L.L.L.P. that the studio was a “special employer” when Carpenter injured his hand in 2003.

Under California law, special-employer status occurs when an employee works for two employers and some control is relinquished from one company to another, court records show. Both the original, or “general employer,” and the second, or “special employer,” are on the hook for workers’ comp benefits.

Therefore, injured workers are barred from suing either employer and are limited to remedies within the workers’ comp system, court records show.

A trial court jury found that to be the case after Carpenter sued Universal seeking damages.

Carpenter claimed that Universal City Studios was no more than a landlord for a soundstage where he was injured and that his real employer was Universal Network Television, court records state. Universal’s corporate interests include a theme park, TV and motion picture studios, and production for music videos, commercials and television shows.

The appeals court upheld the jury’s finding. It ruled that although Universal’s corporate structure is “conflicting and at times confusing,” there is substantial evidence to support the jury’s finding that Universal City Studios and Universal Network Television “were branches of the same employer.”

Filed by Roberto Ceniceros ofBusiness Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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