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A company that hires an independent contractor cannot be held liable for injuries suffered by the contractor’s employees, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The justices continued a line of cases limiting an employee’s remedy to workers’ compensation, barring tort remedies whether the employee works directly for a company or for an independent contractor. To do otherwise, wrote Justice Janice Rogers Brown, would give independent contractors’ employees an unfair windfall. “This, in effect, would exempt a single class of employees, those who work for independent contractors, from the statutorily mandated limits of workers’ compensation,” Brown wrote in Camargo v. Tjaarda Dairy, 01 C.D.O.S. 5674. Chief Justice Ronald George and Justices Joyce Kennard, Marvin Baxter and Ming Chin concurred. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar concurred separately. The decision throws out the lawsuit brought by Eva Camargo and her five children against Tjaarda Dairy after her husband was killed driving a tractor on the dairy farm. Camargo’s husband had been an employee of Golden Cal Trucking. The family could collect workers’ compensation from Golden Cal, but Golden Cal couldn’t be held liable under state law. Camargo tried to sue the dairy that hired Golden Cal on a claim of negligent hiring. In oral arguments, Newport Beach, Calif. attorney Timothy Black told the court that companies often hire the least expensive workers — with or without the proper qualifications. He said independent contractors should be afforded tort remedies because they are the ones most likely to be injured. He could not be reached Thursday for comment on the court’s decision. In a statement, Stephen McCutcheon Jr., an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the dairy farm, praised the high court. He said the Camargos’ suit, had it prevailed, “would unfairly burden businesses ranging from farming to construction to high technology — because they often turn to independent contractors precisely for help in areas where they themselves don’t have expertise.”

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