A contract truck driver allegedly assaulted and injured while making a delivery to a warehouse can’t proceed with a negligence suit against the company because it could be considered his employer.
Because the driver‘s routine, frequent and regular contractual duties were within the usual business of the warehouse that contracted his employer’s services, the warehouse is covered under state workers’ compensation laws, according to a Missouri appeals court.
Midland Paper Company owns a warehouse in Hazelwood, MO, which contracts the regular delivery of products through CRH Transportation.
Robby Sebacher drove for CRH, working full time delivering Midland products under the contract.
All drivers were the sole employees of CRH, which was responsible for hiring, termination, recordkeeping and maintaining workers’ compensation insurance.
Midland was responsible for daily supervision and training of the drivers, according to the appeals court decision.
Sebacher was allegedly assaulted by a Midland employee while at the Hazelwood warehouse, so he filed charges of assault and battery against the employee.
He also filed a lawsuit against Midland saying the company was negligent in retaining the employee and in failing to supervise and train the employee.
Immune under exclusive remedy provision
Midland requested the case be dismissed because it was immune under Missouri’s workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision, and a circuit court granted that request.
Sebacher voluntarily dropped the charges against the employee and appealed the decision to dismiss his lawsuit against Midland, claiming the circuit court erred in finding the company his statutory employer.
He argued “product delivery is the type of specialized work that is excluded from the usual course” of Midland’s business, which meant Midland couldn’t be considered his employer.
However, the appeals court found Sebacher was “clearly carrying out Midland’s usual business at its Hazelwood warehouse – he was picking up products from a distributor to deliver them for the distributor.”
Product delivery counts as Midland’s usual business, the appeals court states, so the company can be considered Sebacher’s employer.