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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Guadalupe Morales sustained fatal head injuries when he fell from a ladder while repairing the roof of a motel. Contending Guadalupe’s injuries were sustained while in the course and scope of his employment with Turnkey Services, Inc. (insured by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company), State National Bank (insured by Continental Casualty Company) and PGD Inc. (a nonsubscriber), his wife Margarita filed a claim for workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Margarita and the insurance carriers participated in a benefit-review conference in an attempt to mediate the dispute, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement and proceeded to a contested-case hearing. The hearing examiner determined that Guadalupe’s employment status at the time of his injury was that of an independent contractor rather than an employee of any of the three named companies; thus, he was not entitled to benefits. The Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission appeals panel affirmed the hearing examiner’s decision, holding that Guadalupe was an independent contractor, not an employee, and therefore he had not suffered a “compensable injury.” Margarita sought judicial review of the TWCC’s decision by filing two suits, this one in El Paso County and another in Travis County. Among other things, Margarita sought review of the appeals panel’s determination that her husband was not an employee under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Liberty Mutual filed a plea to the jurisdiction in the El Paso proceedings, which the trial court granted. Following dismissal of her suit in El Paso County, Margarita voluntarily nonsuited the Travis County suit. The 8th Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the El Paso case for want of jurisdiction, holding that “the status of being an employee of an insured for which a carrier is liable is an issue of”coverage,’ not compensability.” The Texas Supreme Court granted Margarita’s petition for review to consider the appropriate avenue for judicial review of a TWCC appeals panel’s decision regarding a worker’s employment status. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. On appeal, Margarita claimed that the question of who Guadalupe was working for when he was injured fell under Texas Labor Code �410.301, because a worker’s employment status is a necessary component of any compensability inquiry. The insurers, on the other hand, contend that when one or more potential employers of an injured worker is a nonsubscriber to workers’ compensation insurance, a threshold determination must be made as to who employed the worker and whether or not that employer was a subscriber. The insurers claim that only once it is determined that the employer for whom the employee worked was a subscriber does the compensability issue � whether the injury occurred in the course and scope of employment � arise. Thus, in the insurers’ view, the question presented when a nonsubscriber is a potential employer is one of coverage, not compensability. The court agreed with Margarita. The existence of a compensable injury, the court stated, is the threshold requirement for payment of benefits under the workers’ compensation act. Various elements, the court stated, affect whether an injury is compensable, including the worker’s employment status as an employee or independent contractor at the time of injury, whether the worker was injured in the course and scope of employment, who controlled the employee’s work when the injury occurred, and whether a particular employer has an insurance policy in effect. If Guadalupe Morales was not an employee of an employer when he was injured, or was not injured in the course and scope of employment, the court stated that he did not suffer a compensable injury and would not be eligible for benefits under the act. A dispute about any of these elements, the court stated, involves “compensability or eligibility for . . . benefits” and is subject to judicial review under �410.301. Thus, the court reversed and remanded the case to the El Paso district court for further proceedings to determine whether Guadalupe suffered a compensable injury. OPINION:O’Neill, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

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