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The Idaho Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a self-described livestock transportation broker was the statutory employer of a driver injured while attempting to load a cow onto a truck for delivery.
As documented in Eldridge v. Agar Livestock LLC, Agar Livestock LLC would “dispatch” loads of livestock to owner-operators of trucks. Once the load was delivered, Agar Livestock would deduct its “brokerage fee” and remit the remaining funds to the truck owner-operator.
Agar Livestock, which never employed drivers, was in a “brokerage agreement” and “trailer lease agreement” with Meissen Trucking. The agreements had overlapping terms regarding hauls and compensation.
In January 2018, Agar Livestock dispatched a Meissen truck pulling a trailer that Meissen leased from Agar Livestock. As the driver Mr. Eldridge was attempting to load cattle into Agar Livestock’s trailer, a cow charged, struck him between the shoulder blades, shoved him into a gate, trampled him and rendered him unconscious.
Mr. Eldridge filed a workers compensation claim against Meissen, Agar Livestock and others. Meissen was initially represented by an attorney who had argued that Mr. Eldridge was an independent contractor and not an employee of Meissen. However, after pre-hearing depositions, Meissen’s counsel moved to withdraw. Meissen failed to retain new counsel after the original attorney withdrew, so the Industrial Commission entered default against the company.
The commission determined that Mr. Eldridge was an employee of Meissen. Because Meissen failed to carry workers compensation insurance, the commission found Agar Livestock was liable for Mr. Eldridge’s benefits as his statutory employer.
The Idaho Supreme Court explained that a statutory employer is liable for compensation to an injured employee of an employer “under” it if that employer has failed to obtain workers compensation insurance. A “category one” statutory employer is “any person who has expressly or impliedly hired or contracted the services of another.”
The court said the commission properly found Agar Livestock was a “category one” statutory employer of Eldridge because it had contracted the services of his employer, Meissen, to fulfill shipment contracts for clients.
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