Trial is slated to begin this month in the case of a 2009 explosion of a truck containing fireworks on Ocracoke Island that killed four workers and seriously injured a fifth.
Earlier this year, plaintiffs in May and Hill v. Melrose South Pyrotechnics, Inc. won a substantial victory at the North Carolina Court of Appeals when the court declined to dismiss the case simply because defendant labeled decedent's as employees. The court found such a ruling would be premature. That will be decided as a matter of fact by the jury, as opposed to being decided as a matter of law by a judge prior to trial.
The question of the relationship between the workers and defendant pyrotechnic company is an important one because if they were employees, as defendant asserts, any claims for recovery would be limited to workers' compensation law. However, if the workers were independent contractors, as alleged by plaintiffs, they are not bound by the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation benefits.