Payments to business, course of dealings curb employer/employee relationship
Case name: Moore v. Moore d/b/a Moore Enterprises, No. 37083 (Idaho 02/02/11).
The Idaho Supreme Court held that a worker was an independent contractor at the time of his injury, so he was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
What it means: In Idaho, the determination of whether a worker is an independent contractor requires consideration of whether a right to control exists. Courts consider: 1) direct evidence of a right; 2) the payment method for work completed; 3) the party responsible for furnishing the equipment; and 4) the right to terminate the employment relationship at will.
Summary: A worker and his father both owned tire businesses. Over the years, the worker occasionally sold tires to his father's business. Several times, the two men traveled together to sell tires and sometimes, the worker would sold tires on behalf of his father's business. The father's employee was unable to work, and the worker claimed his father asked him to work in his place. He went to his father's house to accompany him on a sales trip. While he was unhooking a tire trailer, he was struck in the face by a jack handle. He broke several bones in his face and suffered a detached retina, requiring surgery. He was not paid for the work he performed that day. The worker sought benefits. The Idaho Supreme Court held that the worker was not entitled to benefits because he was an independent contractor and not an employee.
The court considered the course of dealings between the parties that indicated the worker acted as an independent contractor before and after the incident. The father's instructions of which tires to load and how to load them did not supersede the relationship between the parties.
Every time the worker was paid by his father's business before and after the accident, he was paid to his separate business. The father did not report the worker on his payroll and did not withhold taxes from payments.
Although the father owned the truck, trailer, and tires used on the day of the accident, the court did not find that was important since their sales trips were usually joint ventures.
The worker argued that his father asked him to come to work for him, but the court said that factor is becoming less determinative of whether an employment relationship exists.
The court also noted inconsistencies in the worker's testimony and a change in his demeanor from a first hearing to the second hearing.
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March 14, 2011
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