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McCary v. Wade - 861 So. 2d 358 (Miss. App. 2003)

Rule:

For purposes of vicarious liability, the public policy factor in determining whether a employer-employee or independent contractor relationship exists becomes an issue when the relationship between the alleged employer and the alleged employee would ordinarily be characterized as that of an employer/employee, but they have a contract which defines their relationship as that of independent contractors. In that case, the court will scrutinize the contract to see if the parties should be allowed to transform an employer/employee relationship into that of an independent contractor. In essence, an employer will not be allowed to escape liability by drafting a contract which labels its employee an independent contractor, but retains employer-like control over him.

Facts:

The injured parties, Jettie McCary and Lillie Fulwiley, were riding in a van when another driver, Grace Mills, pulled out in front of another driver, Dexter Myrick, who was driving a logging truck. Myrick was forced to hit his breaks, which forced him into the opposite lane of traffic where he collided with the van in which the injured parties were riding. The injured parties sued purported employer Chris Wade, based on vicarious liability for Myrick’s negligence. Wade explained that Myrick bought his own timber, cut it, and hauled it all himself, and that Wade never knew where or when Myrick was producing any wood until Myrick called him alerting that he had a load of logs to sell. Also, Myrick testified that he decided his own work hours, which days he would work, and where he would work. He exclusively made decisions concerning harvest, sorting, loading, and transportation of the timber. Myrick stated that he owned all of the equipment needed for his operation and he had never gotten a loan for his logging business. 

Issue:

Was Myrick acting as an employee of Wade at the time of the accident and, if so, could Wade be held vicariously liable for Myrick's actions?

Answer:

No and No

Conclusion:

Based on the facts stated, the Court held that Myrick's relationship with Wade was that of an independent contractor and not employee/employer. Therefore, Wade could not be held liable for the injured parties' injuries that occurred as a result of the accident.

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