Luther, Collier, Hodges & Cash, LLP – Attorneys at Law

ALABAMA – Torts – Respondeat Superior

In a case before the Madison Circuit Court, the Plaintiff, Kyle Donaldson sued the defendant driver, Gregory Johnston and the insurance company, Country Mutual, for whom Johnston sold policies as an independent insurance agent. The suit sought damages for injuries sustained when the defendant driver struck him while working on the side of the road. Not only did the plaintiff assert negligence and wantonness claims against Johnston, but he also asserted negligence and wantonness claims against Country Mutual under respondeat superior and agency theories.

Country Mutual filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Johnston was an independent contractor and not an agent or employee of the company. Furthermore, Country Mutual argued that even if Johnston was found to be an agent or employee of theirs, his actions in relation to the accident were not inside the line and scope of his employment. The Circuit Court granted Country’s motion and the case proceeded to trial on the remaining claims. After a jury verdict and judgment in favor of Plaintiff Donaldson, he filed an appeal to challenge the summary judgment for Country.

Upon review, the Supreme Court discussed several facts from the evidence that seemed to show that Johnston was in fact an independent contractor and not an employee. For example, Johnston was paid only by commission pursuant to a commission schedule; Johnston rented and maintained his own office space where he ran The Johnston Agency LLC; he hired his own staff, and he paid self-employment taxes. He also determined his own work schedule, hours of operation, and sought out potential customers “at his own discretion and in whatever manner he deemed the most effective.”

After considering these facts, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision in regards to the summary judgment holding that the evidence brought before the trial court was not enough to create a question for the jury as to Johnston’s relationship with Country because “… there was not substantial evidence that Country Mutual reserved the right to direct the method and manner of Johnston’s work.” The high court also pointed out that even if Johnston was determined to be an employee of Country, there wasn’t substantial evidence showing the accident occurred within the line and scope of Johnston’s employment.

Daniel Kyle Donaldson v. Country Mutual Insurance Company (Appeal from Madison Circuit Court: CV-15-902120).

Read the full opinion here…

Exit mobile version