In an attempt to shield the government from liability, Fresno County claims that 9 inmates injured in a gas line explosion are employees and therefore subject to workers' compensation laws. Assuming that California's workers' comp laws operate in a manner similar to the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act, successfully pleading the inmates as employees will result in a limitation of available compensation for the injuries. Under comp, the inmates' injuries would be paid by the county's workers' comp insurance carrier, and the inmates would be unable to sue for general damages such as pain and suffering like they would under a general tort suit, and under NC comp at least, surviving beneficiaries would be severely limited in the damages available for the death of a worker, regardless of the level of negligence involved.
Curious how this one will turn out, apparently prison workers who keep regular jobs are generally covered under Comp but the lawyers for these inmates claim they are not limited by the law because the maintenance they were performing was irregular. The story in the Fresno Bee is here.