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Workers-Comp Ruling Rejected In Air Show Injury

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An appeals court said Wednesday a security guard who was injured in a 2011 tornado can pursue a lawsuit against a company that put on an air show in Polk County.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower-court ruling that Sun 'N Fun Fly-In, Inc., was immune from liability because of the state's workers-compensation insurance laws.

The lawsuit was filed by Alice Slora, an employee of U.S. Security Associates, Inc., which provided security for an air show operated by Sun 'N Fun Fly-In at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

During the show, a severe storm hit Polk County, and a tornado lifted a guard shack off the ground and put it in a nearby ditch, according to Wednesday's ruling. Slora, who was inside the shack, suffered injuries.

She received workers-compensation benefits from U.S. Security Associates and filed a negligence lawsuit against Sun 'N Fun Fly-In, alleging in part that the bad weather was foreseeable and that the guard shack had not been maintained properly.

Sun 'N Fun Fly-In argued that it should be immune from liability under the workers-compensation laws because it was a contractor that sublet contract work to U.S. Security, the ruling said.

A circuit judge agreed with Sun 'N Fun Fly-In that it qualified for the immunity because it had a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the air show. But the appeals court overturned that decision, finding that Sun 'N Fun Fly-In's approvals from the federal agency were not a contract.

"The record in this case establishes that Sun 'n Fun's relationship with the FAA was one of regulatory grace, not bargained-for exchange,'' said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Samuel Salario and joined by judges Chris Altenbernd and Daniel Sleet.

"Sun 'n Fun thus failed to meet its burden to establish that a contract existed as a matter of law between Sun 'n Fun and the FAA."