Case Denied Against Trucking Company Based on Lack of Employment Relationship
August 05, 2019
Our firm successfully defended the interests of our trucking company client with a denial of compensation because of the absence of an employer/employee or borrowing/loaning employment relationship in Bergmann v. IWCC, 2019 IL App (1st) 181948WC –U. Claimant alleged two work accidents while hauling freight under an independent contractor agreement (ICA) between Star Leasing (an affiliate of claimant’s employer, Star Transport) and Respondent, Swift Transportation. Star Leasing became defunct and their carrier went bankrupt. Claimant sought benefits from Swift arguing it was his actual employer or a borrowing employer. The Illinois Insurance Guaranty Fund (IIGF) was also named as a respondent and denied liability on the theory claimant was an employee of Swift. After the ICA became effective, claimant completed a DOT required application, underwent a drug test, completed an online safety course at the directive of Swift, began driving a new truck with Swift’s name and logo, drove under Swift’s DOT number, and began receiving assignments through a new system. Per the ICA, Star became an independent contractor providing trucks and drivers for Swift, as well as equipment to transport freight under Swift’s DOT number. Star could reject loads tendered by Swift, hire drivers to carry out obligations under the agreement, and was solely responsible for the direction and control of its employees as well as the method, means, and manner of performing services under the agreement. Swift paid Star a per mile rate and had no control over the compensation Star paid to its drivers. Star was required to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance for its employees. The Commission found Swift was not an actual or borrowing employer since it did not control claimant’s work performance. However, claimant was an employee of Star Leasing, who was liable for the compensation awarded– lost time and medical expenses–in the 19(b) proceeding. Further, the IIGF remained a named respondent in the proceedings. The appellate court affirmed the Commission’s decision other than reducing the TTD awarded to the date of Swift’s IME. Proceedings will continue as to IIGF’s liability on the award and a determination of permanency.
COMMENT: Wiedner & McAuliffe recognizes that the successful defense of trucking companies requires a thorough understanding of the relationship among the parties and the terms of all contracts. Consequently, we identify those witnesses able to testify as to these relationships and contract terms and prepare their testimony. Allow us the opportunity to do so for you. Thus, please contact Brooke Torrenga who represented Swift Transportation at 312-596-4980 (direct dial) or our office at 312-855-1105 to speak with our other attorneys to discuss this decision or similar factual patterns.