Court deems jury must decide question of agency and liability
Stephen Krywy suffered devastating injuries when he was rear-ended by a Detroit Newspaper Agency [Detroit News] delivery contractor's substitute driver. The trial judge dismissed Krywy's claim against the News, finding that the substitute driver, like the owner of the delivery route, was not an agent of the newspaper, but rather was an independent contractor. The Court of Appeals noted that this case was almost identical to a case which the Supreme Court had decided 40 years ago--and that in the prior unanimous decision the Court had held that a jury must decide whether the driver "fell within the scope of an agency relationship" with the News.
After reviewing the facts pertinent to the News' control over the newspaper delivery route, the Court of Appeals concluded that--just as forty years ago--there were enough facts to create a jury question over whether the News was responsible for the delivery driver. The case was returned to the lower court where a jury will have to weigh the indices of employment and assess whether the delivery contractor and its "sub-agent" were really employees of the News or whether they were truly independent contractors with a property interest in their route and sufficient freedom and flexibility to be something other than "employees."