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Legal Memorandum: Rules for Contract Interpretation in VI

Issue: What are the rules for contract interpretation under the laws of the Virgin Islands?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Employee Law, Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: Contracts; Rules for interpretation
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 198 F. Supp. 2d 632; 311 F.3d 237
Cited Statutes: 24 V.I.C. § 284(b);
Date: 11/01/2004

The Virgin Islands Legislature has expressly required that a “contractor’s employer can be liable to a subcontractor’s employees.”  Gass v. V.I. Tel. Corp., 311 F.3d 237, 245 (3d Cir. 2002); 24 V.I.C. § 284(b).

Section 284 of the Virgin Islands Workers’ Compensation Act provides in part:

For purposes of this section, a contractor shall be deemed the employer of a subcontractor’s employees only if the subcontractor fails to comply with the provisions of this chapter with respect to being an insured employer.  The “statutory employer and borrowed servant” doctrine are not recognized in this jurisdiction, and an injured employee may sue any person responsible for his injuries other than the employer named in a certificate of insurance.

24 V.I.C. § 284(b) (emphasis added).  The official notes to § 284 also make clear that “the Legislature never intended immunity for these secondary wrongdoers.”  Bill No. 498, 16th Legislature (1986) (attached explanation). 

As the Third Circuit itself found, “[t]hese legislative enactments . . . provide a clear statement of the public policy of the Virgin Islands.”  Gass, 311 F.3d at 246.  Thus, Virgin Islands public policy provides that “an injured employee of an independent contractor may sue the employer of the independent contractor under the provisions of section 414 [and section 410 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts], if that employer is not named in the worker’s compensation certificate.”  Id. (citing Figueroa v. HOVIC, 198 F. Supp. 2d 632, 641 (D.V.I. App. 2002)).  A […]

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