Murrel v. Goertz Case Brief

Summary of Murrel v. Goertz, Ct of App OK [1979]

Vicarious Liability

Relevant Facts: Goertz was making monthly collections for the delivery of Appellant’s newspaper, published by co-appellee. Appellant question Goertz about damage to her screen door caused by the newspaper carrier throwing the newspaper into it. An argument ensued whereby Mrs. Murrell slapped Goertz who in turn struck her back. Appellant was injured as a result, requiring medical treatment and hospitalization.

Legal Issue(s): Whether a carrier, who was hired as independent carrier by a friend himself an independent contractor, create liability for the Df publishing company for damages resulting from alleged assault and battery by codefendant carrier?Court’s Holding: NO

Procedure: Tr ct Summary in favor of DF; Ct of App Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): In determining whether a person is an independent contractor or an employee the right to control the physical details of the work are decisive.

Court Rationale: Independent contractor is one who engages to perform a certain service for another according to his own methods and manner, free from control and direction of his employer in all matters connected with performance of service except as to result thereof. Goertz was hired as an Independent carrier salesman by his friend who was an independent contractor. Appellee had no input into the decision to hire and had no knowledge of his employment. Goertz had not direct contact with appellee. While appellee established certain policies and standards to which all distributors and carriers adhere, such policies did not rise to the level of supervision, dominion, and control over Goertz’s daily activities as to make him appellee’s servant.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The distribution of papers and the collection of money is an integral part of appellee’s business and appellee had a high degree of control over Goertz’s physical details of the work he performed.

Defendant’s Argument: Goertz was not hired by Appellee, he was hired by an independent contractor who in turn hired him as an independent contractor. Goertz was not under the supervision of the Appellee, nor did appellee received or give money to Goertz.




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