Northern Elec. Co. v. Phillips

Citation660 So.2d 1278
Decision Date03 August 1995
Docket NumberNo. 91-CA-00470-SCT,91-CA-00470-SCT
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi

Eve Gable, Bryan Nelson Randolph & Weathers, Hattiesburg, Michael K. Randolph, Bryan Nelson Firm, Hattiesburg, for appellant.

Michael B. McMahan, McMahan McMahan & Brinkley, Hattiesburg, for appellee.

Rebecca Lee Wiggs, Kenneth E. Milam, Watkins & Eager, Jackson, for amicus curiae.

En Banc.

BANKS, Justice, for the Court:

In the present appeal, we are asked to determine whether employees covered for workers' compensation by the temporary employment agency are barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers' compensation act from recovery against the entity for which the services are actually performed. We answer the question in the affirmative, reverse the judgment and render.


In March of 1989, Kelly Services in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, employed Phillips to work with Northern Electric Company (NECO) temporarily as a maintenance helper and to perform other assigned tasks. Six weeks later, on April 20, 1989, Phillips sustained severe injuries when Minter, a co-employee, drove a forklift into the table and caused a roller bar to fall from the table and onto Phillips' foot. Phillips filed and received workers' compensation benefits from Transportation Insurance Company, a CNA member company (CNA) through Kelly. Legal proceedings began on July 5, 1990, when Phillips filed a complaint in the Forrest County Circuit Court alleging that NECO's and Minter's negligence resulted in his injuries.

On March 14, 1991, NECO filed its motion for summary judgment asserting, inter alia, that there is no genuine issue of material fact and NECO is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. NECO alleged that at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was its "loaned" or "borrowed servant," or "special employee." On March 14, 1991, Phillips filed his first motion in limine to restrain NECO from mentioning, referring to or commenting on, inter alia, 1) any suggestion or reference that any of the medical bills were paid by workers' compensation or any other insurance; and 2) any suggestion or reference that workers' compensation paid weekly disability benefits to plaintiff or paid any type of workers' compensation settlement to plaintiff. Phillips also filed his second motion in limine on March 14, 1991, and requested that the court order NECO and its agents to give any and all testimony concerning insurance contracts outside the presence of the jury.

On March 15, 1991, Phillips filed his motion to strike defendant's motion for summary judgment since the 1) case was set for trial on Monday, March 18, 1991, pursuant to an agreed order that was entered on October 16, 1990; 2) defendant's motion for summary judgment was filed on March 14, 1991; and 3) MRCP Rule 56(c) required that motions for summary judgment be served at least 10 days before the time fixed for the hearing. Phillips additionally asserted that since defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment has been filed only four days prior to trial, and in violation of MRCP Rule 56(c), it should be denied.

Phillips also filed a motion to strike NECO's second and fourth defenses which showed that Phillips' exclusive remedy for the injury was workers' compensation benefits pursuant to the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act. In this motion, Phillips asserted that NECO and Kelly entered into a contract which evidenced the agreement of the parties and the responsibilities to be borne by each. Phillips stated that by the specific, clear, and concise language of the contract, NECO agreed to be fully responsible for all bodily injury claims of Kelly's employees. Additionally, Phillips asserted that "[b]y agreement between the parties, Kelly assumed and fulfilled all legal obligations for workers' compensation. Therefore, NECO had no legal liability for workers' compensation to Kelly employees."

On March 18, 1991, NECO responded to Phillips' first motion in limine by asserting that NECO 1) "should be entitled to introduce evidence of and to reference medical bills paid by workers' compensation to the plaintiff, as such evidence is material to its second and fourth defenses"; and 2) defendants were entitled to show that they secured such payment of weekly disability benefits to the plaintiff as required by the Workers' Compensation Act. On March 18, 1991, NECO also responded to Phillips' second motion in limine by asserting that NECO would show that "there are certain insurance contracts material to the presentation of defendants' proof of these defenses, including, but not limited to defendant's entitlement to show that ... [NECO] did in fact "secure payment of compensation" as required by the Workers' Compensation Act for and on behalf of Phillips."

During the pre-trial hearing on March 18, 1991, the trial court, finding that the case was controlled by the contract agreement between NECO and Kelly, overruled NECO's motion for summary judgment as untimely and sustained Phillips' motions to strike and his motions in limine.


Phillips claimed that on the morning of April 20, 1989, he sustained severe and permanent injuries to his foot, which caused him to spend money for medical treatment, hospitalization, prescription drugs, and related medical expenses. He averred that as a proximate result of the defendants' negligence, he sustained a loss of wage-earning capacity. Additionally, he averred that his injuries were the direct and proximate result of NECO's and Minter's acts, and sought damages in the aggregate amount of $500,000. NECO answered that Phillips' sole and exclusive remedy for the injury claimed is workers' compensation benefits since Phillips was a "loaned or borrowed servant" at the time of the injury, and/or engaged in the "dual employment" of Kelly and NECO at the time of the accident which granted NECO immunity at law.

On the day of the trial, March 18, 1991, NECO proffered witnesses in response to the court's consideration of Phillips' motion in limine to exclude reference to the borrowed servant or loaned servant evidence and the workers' compensation. NECO began by calling Bertis Phillips, who testified that when he went to work with Kelly Temporary Services he knew that it was temporary services agency. He testified that Kelly sent him to the maintenance department and that he was working in other capacities, other than as a maintenance helper, including painting and cleaning offices, stripping floors and painting the machines. In addition, Phillips stated that he received his orders and work assignment from the assistant supervisor for the maintenance department.

The manager of Kelly Services, Judy Platt, testified that Kelly charges the customer a bill rate that is greater than the wages paid to the Kelly person. "It includes the wage that we pay the workers, workers' compensation premiums, unemployment compensation taxes, social security taxes, withholding taxes for state and federal income, things like that." In addition, Platt stated that the service agreement on the back of the invoice states that the employees are sent by Kelly out to the customer, and are to be at the customer's direction and control.

On re-direct, Platt answered that "7.5 percent is for FICA; 1.6 percent for state unemployment; . 8 percent federal unemployment; 7.7 percent workers' compensation; 1.5 percent benefit; 20.4 per cent is overhead, and that included branch level of spending, such as rent, electricity, full-time staff, 8.0 general and administrative, including corporate expenses like the time card processing, the pay check, accounts receivable, the whole process; and 2.5 per cent profit." Platt also stated that "the 1.5 benefit package is for vacation time, holiday pay, anything like that we offer to our employees."

David McCoy, Director of Human Resources at NECO, answered in the affirmative when questioned on whether the persons that NECO hires from Kelly are placed in the same departments as its other regularly employed people, do basically the same jobs, and are supervised by NECO's personnel. He answered "no" when asked whether Kelly supervisors were on the premises, and when questioned whether Kelly workers performed independent services. He also answered in the affirmative when asked "Was it your understanding that what you paid Kelly, in essence, paid [the workers' compensation] premium?"

At the end of the proffer of all witnesses and cross-examination by the plaintiff, the judge stated that:

The court would at least be consistent in its ruling, would stand by the same ruling as enunciated in chambers. That being, this court is of the opinion that the contract would rule in this particular matter, and that being the case, I am going to sustain the motion in limine. And I presume also strike the defenses. The way these things are formed, it's kind of hard to do because you've got some of it in the Motion for Summary, which I might enunciate into the record, it was filed but was not timely filed. It was brought over here two days before trial. So that will be the ruling of the court.

At the conclusion of Phillips' evidence, the court denied NECO's motion for a directed verdict. After hearing the evidence relative to the negligence claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. NECO filed a motion for a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, or in the Alternative for a New Trial. After these post-trial motions were denied, this appeal followed.


We review de novo the record on appeal from a grant of a motion for summary judgment. Short v. Columbus Rubber and Gasket Co., 535 So.2d 61, 63 (Miss.1988). In Brown v. Credit Center, Inc., 444 So.2d 358, 362 (Miss.1983), we interpreted Rule 56 and the standards that the trial courts should use in considering a motion for summary judgment. We explained that

The trial court must review carefully all of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
70 cases
  • Elkins v. McKenzie, No. 2002-IA-00845-SCT
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 30, 2003
    ...v. Orr, 700 So.2d 619, 622 (Miss.1997); Richmond v. Benchmark Constr. Corp, 692 So.2d 60, 61 (Miss.1997); Northern Elec. Co. v. Phillips, 660 So.2d 1278, 1281 (Miss.1995). A. The City's Liability under § 1983 ¶ 22. Modener contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment as ......
  • Jones v. James Reeves Contractors, Inc., 93-CA-01139-SCT
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • March 27, 1997
    ... ... Bradley, 674 So.2d 11 (Miss.1996); Quick Change Oil and Lube, Inc., supra; Northern Electric Co. v. Phillips, 660 So.2d 1278 (Miss.1995); Richardson v. APAC-Mississippi, Inc., 631 ... ...
  • 88 Hawai'i 140, Frank v. Hawaii Planing Mill Foundation
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • September 15, 1998
    ...Co., 455 Mich. 25, 564 N.W.2d 872 (1997); Bilotta v. Labor Pool of St. Paul, Inc., 321 N.W.2d 888 (Minn.1982); Northern Elec. Co. v. Phillips, 660 So.2d 1278 (Miss.1995); McGuire v. Tenneco, Inc., 756 S.W.2d 532 (Mo.1988); Daniels v. Pamida, Inc. 251 Neb. 921, 561 N.W.2d 568 (1997); Antonin......
  • Delta Chemical and Petroleum, Inc. v. Citizens Bank of Byhalia
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • March 27, 2001
    ...such decisions under the de novo standard of review. Long v. Harris, 744 So.2d 839 (¶ 8) (Miss.Ct.App.1999); Northern Elec. Co. v. Phillips, 660 So.2d 1278, 1281 (Miss.1995). The same standard is employed in evaluating motions for directed verdict as is employed in evaluating motions for ju......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT