On December 3, 2013, the Michigan Court of Appeals “re-interpreted” the definition of “employee”
under the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101(n). The case at issue is Auto-Owners Insurance Company (Workers Compensation Insurance Company) v. All Star Lawn Specialists Plus (Employer) and Joseph Derry (Employee). In this case, a lawn maintenance worker suffered serious injuries as a result of his employer failing to latch down a leaf vacuum machine that tipped over and struck him. Unfortunately, the worker was denied his workers compensation benefits and filed suit against Auto-Owners Insurance Company. The trial court held that the worker did not fall under the definition of an “employee” under MCL 418.101(n), but instead would be considered an independent contractor and thus, not entitled to workers compensation benefits.
Who is an employee?
Under this latest interpretation of MCL 418.101(n), there are three factors to consider. (1) Does the worker maintain a separate business? (2) Does the worker hold himself out to the public as one who renders a “public service?” and (3) Is the worker an “employer?” If the answer is “Yes” to ANY of these questions, he/she would NOT be entitled to workers compensation benefits!
Think of the absurdity of this opinion. For example, consider a construction worker, who may be forced to take on “side jobs” such as painting a garage, putting up siding, or building a dog house, to make ends meet. Under this decision, the worker would be stripped of their worker compensation benefits. Meaning, if they were injured in the course of their construction job, they would not be able to collect their wages or obtain reimbursement for medical expenses. Once again, the Michigan Courts have seen fit to pass the expense of an injury from an insurance company, which is in the business of bearing risk, to the victim who can’t afford it.
By: A. Vince Colella and Fahd Haque, Law Clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C. If you have any questions, please email Fahd Haque at FHaque@mosscolella.com