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Georgia Court of Appeals Reaffirms the Time, Manner, and Method Standard of Evaluating an Employer/E

On August 16, 2017, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision that an employer may only be vicariously liable for an employee’s actions if the employer retains control over the time, manner, and method of executing the work. Grange Indem. Ins. Co. v. BeavEx, Inc., 2017 WL 3497486 (Ga. Ct. App. 2017). Pathe Sarr was a delivery driver pursuant to a contract with BeavEx. On March 17, 2014, Sarr was making a delivery to Wells Fargo Bank and collided with the vehicle of Edward and Patricia Morris. The Morrises sued Sarr and BeavEx to recover damages for their injuries sustained in the collision. The court held that Sarr was an independent contractor, not an employee, and granted summary judgment for BeavEx. Grange Indemnity Insurance Company (“Grange”) then filed an appeal as the Morrises' purported uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier.

The court held that the contract between Sarr and BeavEx “clearly described an independent contractor relationship.” Id. at 2. The contract stated that Sarr would provide delivery services as an independent contractor, and must complete his deliveries using his own “independent judgment and discretion.” Id. at 1. Further, Sarr had to provide his own vehicle and insurance, he had to pay for all his operating costs and expenses, he received a 1099 form and was not treated as an employee for any tax purposes, he was not covered under BeavEx's workers' compensation or unemployment insurance coverage, and he was not eligible to participate in any BeavEx pension plan or insurance plans of any type. Therefore, the Court found that Grange’s claims did not change Sarr’s status as an independent contractor because the customers, and not BeavEx, placed the additional four requirements on Sarr. Id. at 2. Further, even if an employer retains the right to exercise a certain level of control over the work, and the control reserved does not apply to the manner of doing the details of the work, then the employer does not destroy the independence of the relation. Id.

The attorneys at Buckley Christopher, P.C. are available to assist you and your company in ensuring that your employment practices are within the bounds of the law and to represent you if litigation arises. Please contact one of our attorneys for more information.

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