Alabama Supreme Court 1920116.
Alabama Supreme Court 1920117.
ROBERTSON, Presiding Judge.
This is a worker's compensation case. The appellee, Floria Elaine Casey, was hired by the manager of East Alabama Pizza, Inc. (East Alabama), Scott Powell. East Alabama operated under a franchise agreement with Domino's Pizza, Inc. (Domino's). After working at the store for approximately fourteen months, Casey slipped and fell while mopping a floor. The principal owner of East Alabama, Greg Fussel, did not have worker's compensation coverage at the time of Casey's accident. When Casey attempted to get medical treatment for her injuries, she discovered East Alabama's worker's compensation insurance had lapsed. After Casey's doctor advised her that she needed back surgery, Domino's sent Casey a check for $2,500 in order for her to have this surgery.
Casey initially filed a complaint for worker's compensation benefits against East
At trial, Casey testified that she was hired by the store manager, Scott Powell, who received his training from Domino's. According to Casey, Powell trained her according to the Domino's manual. Casey also testified that, while working at East Alabama, she wore a Domino's Pizza shirt, name tag, and hat. When she went on deliveries, Casey said she had a Domino's car top sign. Casey testified that guidelines for making deliveries were set by Domino's manual, which specified deliveries were to be made in thirty minutes or less. Casey also testified that twice a week Domino's delivered the stock for the store.
According to Casey, Domino's actively participated in the operation of the store. She testified that a representative of Domino's made periodic, usually monthly, checks on the store. If an employee was not in compliance with the rules set forth by Domino's manual, that employee would be given a written warning by a Domino's representative. This representative gave Casey a written warning on one occasion because she was wearing too much jewelry, and on another occasion, he told Casey to put her hair through the strap on the back of her cap because it was too long. Casey testified that a Domino's representative told her that if she received a written warning more than three times, she would automatically be terminated.
In further support of their position that Domino's was an employer of Casey, she presented the testimony of her husband, Wilber Perry Casey. Mr. Casey primarily corroborated his wife's testimony. In response, Domino's presented several witnesses who testified that they were employees of East Alabama and worked for Mr. Fussel, not Domino's.
During the trial, neither Domino's nor East Alabama offered any evidence concerning whether they possessed worker's compensation insurance at the time of Casey's accident. After the trial concluded, the court entered a judgment in favor of Casey, finding that she was a joint employee of East Alabama and Domino's and, therefore, entitled to worker's compensation benefits. The trial court considered the franchise agreement, but found that Domino's had sufficient control over the method and manner in which Casey could perform her job duties to be considered a joint employee. The trial court also found that Casey was entitled to and entered a judgment for double the compensation rate she would otherwise be entitled to pursuant to § 25-5-8(a), Code 1975, because of East Alabama's and Domino's failure to be covered by worker's compensation insurance. The trial court denied Domino's and East Alabama's motions for reconsideration. East Alabama did not appeal the trial court's order. Domino's appeals.
The only two issues raised by Domino's on appeal are whether the trial court erred in finding Casey to be an employee of Domino's and, if it did not err in that respect, whether the trial court erred in finding the double penalty provisions applicable against Domino's.
The standard of review in a worker's compensation case is a two-step process set forth by our supreme court in Ex parte Eastwood Foods, Inc., 575 So.2d 91 (Ala.1991), as follows:
Eastwood Foods at 93.
The principal issue in this case is whether Casey was a joint employee of East Alabama and Domino's at the time of her injury. Our supreme court considered this issue of joint or concurrent employers in Ex parte Stewart, 518 So.2d 118 (Ala. 1987). In Stewart, our supreme court rejected
The relevant portion of the franchise agreement is paragraph 22.8, which reads as follows:
Domino's relies on this section for the proposition that its relationship with Casey is not that of employer-employee because East Alabama was an independent contractor. However, the trial court in this case found, as our supreme court did in Alabama Power Co. v. Beam, 472 So.2d 619, 625 (Ala.1985), that "[t]he parties' characterization of their relationship is not controlling."
This court addressed the application of Stewart in Weinacker v. Miss Universe, Inc., 572 So.2d 476 (Ala.Civ.App.1990). In Weinacker, a stagehand injured his back while unloading equipment for the Miss Universe pageant. He filed suit for worker's compensation benefits against the City of Mobile and the pageant. The trial court held that the stagehand was an employee of the pageant and not the city. The stagehand appealed to this court. Applying our supreme court's decision in Stewart, this court affirmed the trial court's decision. In our opinion, we discussed both the control exercised by the pageant and the employment contract entered into between the stagehand's union and the city. In this case, unlike Weinacker, the control test indicates one employer, and the additional indicia test indicates another.
The resolution of this conflict centers on the standard of review in worker's compensation cases. Under Eastwood Foods, the first inquiry is whether the trial court's conclusions are supported by any legal evidence. In this case, there is legal evidence that the control test is satisfied by Domino's extensive supervision of the daily operation of East Alabama. Next, we must consider if a reasonable view of the evidence supports the findings of the trial court. In this case, the trial court heard extensive testimony concerning the interaction between Domino's and East Alabama. The trial court also considered the franchise agreement, but considered the actions of Domino's to be more revealing of the true nature of the employment relationship than the language of that document. We find there to be legal evidence to support the trial court's findings, and we further find that a reasonable view of that evidence supports the trial court's judgment that Casey was a joint employee of Domino's and East Alabama. Eastwood Foods.
This court must now consider whether the trial court properly applied the penalty provision of § 25-5-8(e), Code 1975, to Domino's. The relevant portion of this statute reads as follows: "Any employer required to secure the payment of compensation under this section who fails to secure such compensation shall be liable for two times the amount of compensation which would have otherwise been payable for injury or death to an employee." The resolution of this issue depends on whether the trial court properly afforded Domino's an opportunity to prove that at the time of
Therefore, we reverse that part of the trial court's judgment that imposed the double penalty provision against Domino's and remand this issue for the trial court to make a determination as to whether Domino's had worker's compensation insurance at the time of Casey's accident. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment is due to be affirmed in part; reversed in part; and remanded with directions.
AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED IN PART; AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.
THIGPEN and RUSSELL, JJ., concur.