From Lexology — “Owen v. Tennessee Valley Printing Company, Inc., No. 2130139 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014) (holding that newspaper deliverer was independent contractor and not agent of newspaper company).
Tennessee Valley Printing Company, Inc., d/b/a The Decatur Daily (“TVPC”) utilizes independent contractors to deliver newspapers for The Decatur Daily. Carolyn Johnson (“Johnson”) entered into a contract with TVPC to deliver newspapers. The contract specifically stated that Johnson was an independent contractor of TVPC. The contract gave Johnson the sole right to control the manner of performance under the contract, including the right to retain individuals of her own choosing to fulfill the requirements of the contract.
On August 31, 2011, Johnson employed Felton Leon Johnson (“Leon”) to deliver newspapers. Leon was delivering newspapers to a Kroger grocery store when he struck Patricia Owen with his vehicle causing her to suffer injuries that ultimately led to her death. Owen filed a lawsuit asserting claims against Leon, TVPC, and several other defendants. Owen argued that Johnson was an employee of TVPC and that Leon had been acting as a sub-agent of Johnson. Owen claimed that TVPC was liable for Leon’s actions. TVPC filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Johnson was an independent contractor for TVPC not an employee of TVPC. TVPC claimed that it was not liable for the actions of independent contractors. The trial court agreed with TVPC and dismissed all claims asserted against TVPC. Owen appealed.
In general, an Alabama corporation can be held liable for the actions of its agents but not the actions of an independent contractor. In determining whether an individual is an agent or an independent contractor, courts examine the relationship between the individual and the employer. An agency relationship exists where the employer retains the right to direct both the type of work to be performed and how the work shall be performed. In this case, the Court concluded that TVPC did not exercise sufficient control over Johnson for an agency relationship to exist. Because the Court determined that, as a matter of law, Johnson was not an agent of TVPC, TVPC’s summary judgment motion was affirmed and all claims against TVPC were dismissed.”