Ex parte Stewart

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtTORBERT
Citation518 So.2d 118
PartiesEx parte Bonnie Kay STEWART. (Re Bonnie Kay STEWART v. CARTER REALTY CO., INC.). 85-1376.
Decision Date08 May 1987

Page 118

518 So.2d 118
Ex parte Bonnie Kay STEWART.
(Re Bonnie Kay STEWART
v.
CARTER REALTY CO., INC.).
85-1376.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
May 8, 1987.

Page 119

Jeffery H. Long and George L. Beck, Montgomery, and Cary Dozier, Troy, for petitioner.

J. Pelham Ferrell of Ferrell, McKoon & Britton, Phenix City, for respondent.

TORBERT, Chief Justice.

The petitioner in this case, Bonnie Kay Stewart, sued the respondent, Carter Realty Co., Inc., for damages based on injuries she received in a fire. Stewart worked as a resident manager of an apartment complex for which Carter Realty served as rental and management agent, and one of the claims she asserted in this suit was for worker's compensation. After reviewing the extensive evidence presented in this case, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of Carter Realty. Stewart appealed, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. See Stewart v. Carter Realty Co., 518 So.2d 117 (Ala.Civ.App.1986). 1 The case is before us on writ of certiorari.

The only issue presented for our review concerns Stewart's status as an "employee" of Carter Realty. The trial court ruled that she was not such an employee, and that she was therefore ineligible to claim worker's compensation from Carter Realty. The basis of this decision was that the owners of the apartment complex had retained a right of control over Stewart's work, and that she was therefore the employee of the apartment owners, and not the employee of their rental agent, Carter Realty.

In affirming, the Court of Civil Appeals applied the test of American Tennis Courts, Inc. v. Hinton, 378 So.2d 235 (Ala.Civ.App.1979), cert. denied, 378 So.2d 239 (Ala.1979), to the facts of this case. We granted certiorari to consider whether American Tennis Courts was properly applied by that court.

American Tennis Courts essentially restates the settled test for determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists for the purposes of the worker's compensation law. This test, borrowed from agency principles as they apply to the relationship of master and servant, provides a method for determining when a party is a servant or employee as opposed to an independent contractor. As articulated in American Tennis Courts, "[t]he test to be used in determining the relationship of [employee to employer] is whether [the employer] had a reserved right of control over the means and agencies by which the work was done or the result produced, not the actual exercise of such control." Id., at 237. If a reserved right of control exists, then a worker is an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor, and the provisions of Alabama's worker's compensation laws apply to the relationship between the worker and his employer.

Had the instant case presented the question of whether Stewart was an "employee" as opposed to an "independent contractor,"

Page 120

the test of American Tennis Courts would have resolved the issue. However, no one contends in this case that Stewart was an "independent contractor." Indeed, it appears to be uncontested that Stewart was someone's "employee" within the meaning of the worker's compensation law. The question is: whom did she serve as an employee, Carter Realty or the owners of the apartments? As a legal and logical matter, the "control" test of American Tennis Courts often cannot provide a meaningful answer to such a question.

Inherent in the Court of Civil Appeals' application of the "control" test is the assumption that a worker can have only one master for the purposes of the worker's compensation law. Whatever validity this assumption might have had at common law, in cases involving worker's compensation, such an assumption ignores both the realities of the workplace and the teachings of precedent. 2

For instance, in the case of general and special employers, we have indicated that both the general and the special employer may be liable for worker's compensation, even though only the special employer actually controlled the details of the employee's work. See Bechtel v. Crown Central Petroleum Corp., 495 So.2d 1052 (Ala.1986) (dictum); Terry v. Read Steel Products, 430 So.2d 862 (Ala.1983) (dictum). Moreover, in Terry, we expressly noted that the control test need not be dispositive in determining employer-employee status in cases involving general and special employers. See id., at 864. Thus, our precedent recognizes that compensation liability may extend to multiple employers and that the "control" test has limitations in such situations.

Another typical employment relationship which demonstrates the limitations of the control test is that of "joint employment." Professor Larson's comments on this relationship are instructive:

"Joint employment occurs when a single employee, under contract with two employers, and under the simultaneous control of both, simultaneously performs services for both employers, and when the service for each employer is the same as, or is closely related to, that for the other. In such a case, both employers are liable for workmen's compensation.

"....

"Joint employment is possible,...

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19 practice notes
  • Doe v. Yale University, (SC 15955)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 11, 2000
    ...School? "A. Correct." 42. This portion of Larsons' treatise was relied on by the Supreme Court of Alabama in Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118 (Ala. 1987). In that case, the petitioner, a resident manager of an apartment complex brought a workers' compensation claim against the ren......
  • Ware v. Timmons, 1030488.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • May 5, 2006
    ...a servant who is in fact a servant, and not an independent contractor, is the servant of one master or of another. In Ex parte Stewart, 518 So.2d 118 (Ala.1987), this Court addressed whether a rental agent could be classified as the employer of the resident manager of an apartment complex f......
  • Ware v. Timmons, No. 1030488 (Ala. 9/22/2006), No. 1030488.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 22, 2006
    ...a servant who is in fact a servant, and not an independent contractor, is the servant of one master or of another. In Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118 (Ala. 1987), this Court addressed whether a rental agent could be classified as the employer of the resident manager of an apartment complex......
  • Ex parte Watson, 1190490
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 8, 2021
    ...not to decide a question of first impression on certiorari review before the lower appellate court has decided it. See Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118, 122 (Ala. 1987).13 Moreover, allowing the parties to expand the issues after the grant, as the Court does here, lets the parties control o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Doe v. Yale University, (SC 15955)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • April 11, 2000
    ...Medical School? "A. Correct." 42. This portion of Larsons' treatise was relied on by the Supreme Court of Alabama in Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118 (Ala. 1987). In that case, the petitioner, a resident manager of an apartment complex brought a workers' compensation claim against the renta......
  • Ware v. Timmons, 1030488.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • May 5, 2006
    ...a servant who is in fact a servant, and not an independent contractor, is the servant of one master or of another. In Ex parte Stewart, 518 So.2d 118 (Ala.1987), this Court addressed whether a rental agent could be classified as the employer of the resident manager of an apartment complex f......
  • Ware v. Timmons, No. 1030488 (Ala. 9/22/2006), No. 1030488.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 22, 2006
    ...a servant who is in fact a servant, and not an independent contractor, is the servant of one master or of another. In Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118 (Ala. 1987), this Court addressed whether a rental agent could be classified as the employer of the resident manager of an apartment complex......
  • Ex parte Watson, 1190490
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 8, 2021
    ...not to decide a question of first impression on certiorari review before the lower appellate court has decided it. See Ex parte Stewart, 518 So. 2d 118, 122 (Ala. 1987).13 Moreover, allowing the parties to expand the issues after the grant, as the Court does here, lets the parties control o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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