Contract fails to prevent finding of employer-employee relationship
Case name: KC Transportation, Inc. v. Thompson, No. 2009-CA-000617-WC (Ky. Ct. App. 08/13/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that a truck driver was entitled to temporary total disability and permanent partial disability awards because he was an employee of the employer and not an independent contractor.
What it means: Although the existence of an independent contractor contract shows evidence of the parties' intent, Kentucky courts consider the parties' conduct in determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists.
A truck driver slipped and fell on ice while disconnecting his trailer, injuring his neck and back. The driver had signed an independent contractor lease agreement with a trucking company that granted the company "exclusive possession, control, and use" of his truck. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the driver was entitled to disability benefits because he was an employee of the company and not an independent contractor.
The court stated that the contract provided evidence of the parties' intention, but it was not dispositive of the employment relationship. The company exercised a considerable amount of control over the driver by assigning him routes and specific travel itineraries. The driver testified that he could not arbitrarily refuse loads. The driver was responsible for paying taxes and he received nonemployee compensation from the company, but the court said he was treated like an employee in all other respects. The court concluded that the parties' intention was not carried out by their actual conduct.
The company also argued that the opinion of a doctor relying on an inaccurate medical history could not constitute evidence of causation. The court stated that the doctor was aware of the driver's history of lower back pain and he made an allowance for it in the impairment rating.
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November 4, 2010
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