Voluntary work not related to business curbs claim against neighbor
Case name: Powell, et al. v. Marter d/b/a Quality Floor Covering, No. M2010-01746-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 06/07/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to benefits for his broken femur because he was a casual employee.
What it means: In Tennessee, evidence that a worker was performing voluntary work as a personal favor that was not business-related shows that the worker was a casual employee not entitled to workers' compensation.
A worker was laid off, so his neighbor, who he knew socially, hired him to work part time for his floor covering business. A job ended, and the neighbor told him he had no additional work. The worker responded that "his wife needed him to work." The neighbor asked the worker to come to his house with a chain saw to help him cut down trees on his property. While cutting down a tree, the worker broke his femur. He required surgery and several months of rehabilitation. The worker sought benefits. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the worker was not entitled to benefits.
The neighbor asserted that the worker was a casual employee while the worker contended that he was a general laborer. The court, agreeing with the neighbor, said that the worker did not go to work everyday but was offered work which he could refuse on specific flooring projects. The worker only did work related to flooring. He was free to seek work elsewhere.
The neighbor said the tree-cutting work was voluntary and not related to the floor covering business. The worker said he performed work at the neighbor's home previously and was paid by checks written from the business. The worker worked at the neighbor's home to clean the trailer used to store tools and other materials for the business. The court concluded that the neighbor's hiring of the worker for cutting trees was a personal favor, not business-related.
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July 25, 2011
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