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Pork processor wrongly granted summary judgment in staffing agency worker suit


A pork processing company was prematurely granted summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by an injured staffing agency employee because of lingering questions over the worker’s employee status, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Emerson Dennis Saul sued Sioux City-based Seaboard Triumph Foods LLC for negligence over injuries he says he sustained in July 2019 after being “slammed” between two pallets that were struck by a forklift operated by a Seaboard Triumph worker.

Mr. Saul filed a workers compensation claim against his employer, a staffing agency that placed him in the role, but he also sued Seaboard Triumph, claiming the company’s forklift driver negligently caused the accident.

Seaboard Triumph argued that the suit was barred by workers comp exclusivity, saying Mr. Saul was considered an employee of the company.

A trial judge agreed with the company and granted summary judgment.

The appeals court said the suit would only be barred if Mr. Saul and Seaboard Triumph had an express contract, which was not the case.

The court also noted that the company’s own human resources manager testified at a deposition that Mr. Saul was not an employee.

The staffing agency stated that Mr. Saul was its employee.

The appeals court reversed and remanded to the trial court, saying that “reasonable minds can differ” on the question of employee status, and that summary judgment should not have been granted at this stage of the litigation.