Citizen's Utility, Inc. v. Livingston, 2

CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona
Writing for the CourtHOWARD; HATHAWAY, C.J., and KRUCKER
Citation515 P.2d 345,21 Ariz.App. 48
PartiesCITIZEN'S UTILITY, INC., a corporation, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, v. Mary S. LIVINGSTON, as surviving spouse of Leroy H. Livingston, Deceased, Appellee and Cross-Appellant. 1247.
Docket NumberNo. 2,CA-CIV,2
Decision Date26 October 1973

Page 345

515 P.2d 345
21 Ariz.App. 48
CITIZEN'S UTILITY, INC., a corporation, Appellant and Cross-Appellee,
Mary S. LIVINGSTON, as surviving spouse of Leroy H. Livingston, Deceased, Appellee and Cross-Appellant.
No. 2 CA-CIV 1247.
Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 2.
Oct. 26, 1973.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 20, 1973.
Review Denied Dec. 18, 1973.

[21 Ariz.App. 49]

Page 346

Gaynor K. Stover, Tucson, for appellant and cross-appellee.

Paul G. Rees, Jr., Tucson, for appellee and cross-appellant.


HOWARD, Judge.

This appeal arises from a wrongful death action by the surviving spouse of the deceased. A summary judgment in appellant's favor was reversed in the case of Livingston v. Citizen's Utility, Inc., 107 Ariz. 62, 481 P.2d 855 (1971). The case proceeded to trial before a jury which rendered a verdict in appellee's favor in the sum of $113,000. Appellant's motions for judgment n.o.v. and for a new trial were denied and judgment entered on the verdict. Appellant appeals from the judgment, and the denial of its post-trial motions. Appellee has filed a cross-appeal questioning the trial court's method of computing interest on the judgment.

The facts considered in the light most favorable to upholding the jury verdict are as follows. Appellant operates a public service light and gas utility in the area of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, supplying electrical energy to the city of Nogales, Arizona, and its sister city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. A main transmission line runs from its power plant to both cities and carries a current of 13,000 volts. In 1965, appellant regularly employed its own electrical crew which was required by union contract to include a foreman, two linemen and a groundman or operator. For several years prior to 1965, having more line maintenance and replacement work than its one crew could perform, appellant made an arrangement with Dykes Electric Company of Tucson, Arizona, for supplying a second crew and several pieces of motor equipment on an hourly basis, as required by appellant. The hourly rate charged appellant for each member of the crew was computed by taking the union wage scale per hour and adding about $3 per hour per man. The additional sum was to cover the equipment furnished and various costs of Dykes Electric Company in keeping the crew members on its payroll rather than appellant's.

At all times the Dykes crew members, including appellee's deceased spouse, were covered by Workmen's Compensation through Dykes and the appellant's crew members were covered by its own Workmen's Compensation. Mrs. Livingston received and continues to receive full Workmen's Compensation benefits by virtue of the coverage on the deceased by Dykes. At times during the two-year period the personnel of the Dykes crew changed and the new members were furnished by the union.

The Dykes crew, with the exception of its foreman, Cooley, commuted daily from Tucson and reported to appellant's power house where they were instructed as to the day's work requirements by Mr. Powles, appellant's engineer and assistant manager. The Dykes crew, generally, performed the same type of work as did appellant's regular crew and at times both crews worked side by side. Appellant reserved the right to reject or terminate any member of the Dykes crew and did so on occasion and, as required, Mr. Powles checked the daily work and performance of the Dykes crew on the same basis as appellant's crew. Both crews were shifted as to location and work during the day as emergency or other matters required.

Mr. Powles testified as follows concerning the relationship of Citizen's to the Dykes crew:

'Q. Mr. Powles, do I understand the relationship between the defendant in this case, Citizens Utilities and Dykes, was that Dykes was engaged in the performance of specific definite jobs, or [21 Ariz.App. 50]

Page 347

pieces of work that you would designate to their foreman, Mr. Cooley?

A. That is right.

Q. Their job was to effect a result in accordance with your design or directions to Mr. Cooley as the head of their crew?

A. That is right.

Q. And you told them what result you wanted to achieve, but did you tell them how to accomplish the step by step procedures?

A. No, I left that up to Mr. Cooley.'

The Dykes crew, for some time prior to the accident, consisted of Cooley as foreman, two linemen and a ground operator. Two weeks prior to the accident the deceased was sent to Nogales by the union to be the operator while the regular operator was on vacation. During this two-week period, as a ground operator, the deceased worked with the Dykes crew doing general repair and replacement which included work on the main transmission line.

About four p.m. on August 13, 1965, a heavy wind and rainstorm struck the Nogales area and downed five of the poles supporting the main transmission line, interrupting electrical service to both cities. Powles contacted the Dykes crew and dispatched it to the damage site to work with appellant's crew to restore service. Cooley, as senior foreman on the job, was in charge of the work and both crews were under his direction. When the lines went down in the storm, circuit breakers interrupted the flow of electricity to the downed wires. This meant that the lines could be and were worked 'cold' by the Dykes crew. The downed lines were connected and raised about six feet off the ground and, after the Dykes crew departed, the circuit breakers were reset and electrical service restored. The lines were then 'hot'.

The next morning the Dykes crew returned to the job. Cooley was told the lines were then hot. The two Dykes linemen, Harrell and Davis were told by Cooley that the lines were hot. In the utility business it is customary to work the lines hot. Equipment is provided for the purpose of working lines hot. Cooley, Harrell and Davis began working the hot lines with a view to replacing them on new poles. They were using 'hot sticks', a tool specifically designed to work wires while they are hot. They were also using special ropes, which did not conduct electricity, to pull the wires. Livingston was initially at a pick-up truck putting cross arms, bolts and insulators on the poles. For some unexplained reason he went up the hill where the balance of the Dykes crew, and the Citizen's crew, under the supervision of Cooley, were working on the hot wires. Davis yelled to Livingston to look out for the wires. Livingston turned, started walking backwards and came in contact with the wires which had been temporarily raised off the ground the previous night. He was electrocuted.

Pursuant to Rule 49(h), Ariz.R.Civ.P., 16 A.R.S., a general verdict accompanied by written interrogatories was submitted to the jury. The jury found that the decedent was not an employee of Citizen's, was a member of a crew working for Citizen's as an independent contractor, that the relationship between Citizen's and Dykes crew was that of employer and independent contractor and that Citizen's did not retain supervision and control over the work being performed by the Dykes crew; and that Citizen's retained control only in effecting a result in accordance with Citizen's design and did not control the manner of execution of the work. (Appellant does not challenge the jury's findings.) It contends the weight of the evidence shows it clearly to be a statutory employer under A.R.S. § 23--902(B) 1 thus rendering it immune from [21 Ariz.App. 51]

Page 348

suit under A.R.S. § 23--906(A) 2 and A.R.S. § 23--1022(A). 3

Appellee claims that the recent case of Halenar v. Superior Court,...

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