JURY VERDICT REVERSED ON APPEAL BECAUSE OF CO-EMPLOYEE STATUS OF INDIVIDUALLY NAMED DEFENDANT
G.UB.MK Constructors and Eric Leslie v. Darlene Garner, as administratrix of the estate of Wendell Garner, deceased:
On January 8, 2010, the Alabama Supreme Court released this opinion wherein it reversed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff based on the Special-Employment Doctrine. At trial, the evidence revealed that the individually named defendant ("Leslie") was hired by GUBMK for the sole purpose of being sent to TVA as "staff augmentation." Leslie worked exclusively on TVA property and, pursuant to a required "labor agreement," was subject to the direct supervision and control of TVA. Leslie used equipment that was owned and operated by TVA. Although paychecks were drawn from a GUBMK bank account, the amount was calculated from information provided by TVA. Workers’ compensation insurance was provided and paid for by TVA and TVA could direct Leslie’s dismissal. On the day of the accident, Leslie was driving a TVA truck and assisting the plaintiff who was an actual TVA employee. Leslie accidentally backed over the plaintiff with the truck causing the plaintiff’s death. As a result, the plaintiff’s estate sued GUBMK and Leslie for negligence. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $525,000.00. The defendants appealed asserting that Leslie was a "special employee" of TVA on the day of the accident. As such, he was a co-employee of the plaintiff and could not be sued for negligence based on the exclusivity doctrine of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Court agreed with the defendants and reversed the jury verdict with instructions that judgment be entered in favor of the defendants. In support of its decision, the Court noted that the substantial and unrebutted evidence at trial was that an implied contract existed between Leslie and TVA, that Leslie was performing TVA’s work on the night in question, and that TVA had the right to control the details of Leslie’s work.