Supreme Court of Justice, Appeal for reconsideration, Juan Ramón v. Cubiertas y Mzov S.A., Necso entrecanales cubiertas S.A., Construcciones Vildavisa S.L., Revestimientos Ángel Juárez S.L., Impermeabilizaciones Olabarrieta S.L., Cia de seguros Bilbao vida, Cia. de seguros Bansyr S.A., Amsyr agrupación seguros y reaseguros, Cia. de seguros AGF-Union Fenix, Nuprocem S.A., Cia de seguros Winterthur y Revestimientos Olabarrieta S.L., 9 October 2001
Constitution of Spain
Article 10, paragraph 2
Provisions relating to the fundamental rights and liberties recognized by the Constitution shall be interpreted in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties and agreements thereon ratified by Spain.
Article 96, paragraph 1
Validly concluded international treaties, once officially published in Spain, shall be part of the internal legal system. Their provisions may only be repealed, amended or suspended in the manner provided for in the treaties themselves or in accordance with general norms of international law.
Occupational safety and health
Direct resolution of a dispute on the basis of international law
Occupational accident/ Joint liability/ Safety measures/ Direct resolution of a dispute on the basis of international law
In this case, the Court was required to resolve the appeal for reconsideration lodged by the insurance companies Winterthur, Bilbao vida and Bansyr S.A., Amsyr group insurance and reinsurance, and by Mr. Juan Ramón, against the decision of the first instance, which ruled that the appellants and other enterprises involved in the process to pay compensation to Mr. Ramón for joint liability of the insurance companies for the occupational accident suffered by Mr. Ramón. Mr. Ramón appealed against the decision since he did not agree with the amount of compensation stipulated, and claimed the payment of interests for late payment of the compensation. The enterprises appealing against the decision sought exemption from liability for the accident, thereby avoiding having to contribute compensation in favour of the worker.
Cubiertas y Mzov S.A. were the owners of a residential construction site and had contracted Nuprocem S.A. for the supply and execution of mortar cladding for the exterior facades of the construction. Nuprocem subcontracted Construcciones Vildavisa S.L. for the execution of the cladding, and it was the latter enterprise that hired the claimant to work on the site. On 21 January 1995, while working on the site, Mr. Ramón suffered an accident in which he fell from a height of 10 m. The accident left the worker paraplegic, and he was granted invalidity pension.
Following unsuccessful attempts to negotiate compensation with the aforementioned enterprises, the worker took legal action, alleging a breach of occupational safety and health standards on the part of the defendants.
The Court considered that the claimant’s request for interests for late payment of the compensation to be legitimate, since the judge in the first instance had omitted to recognize them. However, the Court did not allow the claimant’s arguments for an increase in the compensation awarded, since, in its view, the compensation awarded was adequate and to award a higher sum was to incur unjust enrichment.
In relation to the joint liability of the enterprises for the occupational accident, the Court indicated that the judge in the first instance had made a mistake in upholding the duty of coordination of the enterprises on the implementation of occupational safety measures based on articles 24 and 42 of the Law on the Prevention of Occupational Risk of 1996. The Court maintained that since the Law was not in force on the date of the incident, the aforementioned articles could not be applied to the case. However, this did not mean that the duty of coordination did not exist at the time of the accident. In this regard, the Court observed that:
“The duty of coordination already existed in our legal system at the time of the accident, albeit contained in a different regulation, such as in Article 17 of ILO Convention No. 155, ratified by Spain on 26 July 1985 and published in the State Official Gazette on 11 November of that year and thereby being incorporated into domestic law at that time.”2
Relying on ILO Convention No. 155, the Court confirmed the decision of the first instance, ordering the defendants to pay the joint compensation owing to the worker along with interests for late payment.