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Stringer v. Robinson

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 27, 2013

Geff STRINGER, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
William Bryan ROBINSON, d/b/a Highmark Construction, and Russell G. Griffeth, d/b/a Teton Physical Therapy, P.A., Employer, and Idaho State Insurance Fund, Surety, Defendants-Respondents.

Page 610

Dennis R. Petersen, Idaho Falls, attorney for Appellant.

Steven Fuller, Preston, attorney for Respondents Griffeth and Idaho State Insurance Fund. Steven Fuller argued.

W. JONES, Justice.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

The Idaho Industrial Commission (the Commission) held that a statutory employer, Russell Griffeth, was not liable for payments under Idaho's worker's compensation law because the claimant, Geffary Stringer, fell within the " casual employment" exemption set forth in I.C. ยง 72-212(2). Stringer contests the Commission's application of the " casual employment" exemption, arguing statutory employers, unlike direct employers, are not subject to the " casual employment" exemption. We disagree and affirm the Commission's decision.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Griffeth, a licensed physical therapist, operates a clinic in Idaho Falls. Other than a brief job he held as a teenager, he has never been employed in the construction trade. He has received no training as a contractor and was never licensed as a contractor. He did, however, act as a general contractor in the construction of his two homes in that he organized and supervised various subcontractors.

In early 2009, Griffeth decided to remodel his physical therapy clinic by constructing an addition to the existing building. Griffeth

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had no plans to remodel again in the future. Griffeth intended to be the general contractor for the project, but the city required a licensed commercial contractor. Consequently, Griffeth hired Bryan Robinson, a friend with construction experience, to serve as the general contractor. Robinson obtained a commercial contractor license for the project.

Near the end of the project, Robinson hired Stringer as a carpenter. Stringer installed trim on the addition to the clinic and also worked on beam placement in the addition's ceiling and attic. Stringer provided his own tool bag and hand tools while Robinson provided all other necessary tools, materials, and equipment. Robinson paid Stringer directly by cash or personal check and set Stringer's hours and wages. In total, Stringer worked on the project for about eleven or twelve days. During many of those days, Stringer also worked on other Robinson job sites unrelated to the clinic project.

As the clinic project neared completion, the construction workers used a hoist attached to the roof to move heavy beams into position in the attic. Unfortunately, on or near the last day of the project, the ceiling collapsed, and a beam fell on Stringer. The impact from the beam fractured Stringer's left ankle. At the time of the accident, Robinson did not have worker's compensation coverage.

Stringer filed worker's compensation complaints against both Robinson and Griffeth. Following an evidentiary hearing, the Commission held that Robinson was Stringer's direct employer and that Griffeth was his category one statutory employer.[1] Because Robinson did not pay worker's compensation benefits to Stringer, Griffeth, as the statutory employer, normally would be liable for such benefits. However, the Commission held that Griffeth was exempt from worker's compensation liability ...


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