Sunday, February 3, 2013

Santiago v. Pheonix Newspapers, Inc. case brief

Santiago v. Pheonix Newspapers, Inc. case summary
794 P.2d 138 (Ariz. 1990)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: The Court of Appeals, Division Two (Arizona) granted defendant newspaper summary judgment. The court of appeals found that, as a matter of law, the newspaper was not vicariously liable for the injuries sustained by plaintiff, an individual involved in a collision with the newspaper's carrier.

At that time of the accident the carrier was delivering the newspaper on his route. The injured party filed a negligence action against the carrier and newspaper, alleging that the carrier was the newspaper's agent. The lower court concluded that the carrier was an independent contractor. The court of appeals agreed. The court reversed and remanded the case to the lower court.

The court held that because reasonable minds could differ as to whether an employer-employee relationship existed between the newspaper and carrier, such could not be determined as a matter of law.

Although the fundamental criterion for determining the nature of an employment relationship is the extent of control the principal exercises or may exercise over the agent, in determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists, the fact finder must evaluate a number of criteria. They include: 1. The extent of control exercised by the master over details of the work and the degree of supervision; 2. The distinct nature of the worker's business; 3. Specialization or skilled occupation; 4. Materials and place of work; 5. Duration of employment; 6. Method of payment; 7. Relationship of work done to the regular business of the employer; 8. Belief of the parties.

The court noted evidence for an employer-employee relationship on the basis that the newspaper involved itself with the details of delivery, received directly all customer complaints and changes so as to remove much of the carrier's independence, retained broad discretion to terminate, and relied heavily on the carrier's services for the survival of its business. The court also noted evidence for the carrier's status as an independent contractor on the basis that he used his own car, was subject to little supervision, provided some of his own supplies, and could have someone else deliver for him within limits.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

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