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Quiles v. Johnson

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 12, 2018

Rigoberto Quiles Plaintiff- Appellant
Alan Martin Johnson Defendant-Appellee

          Submitted: June 12, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before LOKEN, ERICKSON, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

         Rigoberto Quiles was severely injured when Alan Johnson fell asleep at the wheel and drove his tractor-trailer off I-80 in Adair County, Iowa. At the time of the accident, Quiles was a new employee of Swift Transportation Company of Arizona ("Swift"), an interstate motor carrier, who was completing Swift's commercial driving training program. Johnson was transporting goods for Swift as an independent contractor and serving as Quiles's "driving mentor" in Swift's training program.

         Trainee Quiles was off-duty in the truck's sleeper berth. After receiving workers' compensation benefits from Swift, Quiles brought this diversity action against Johnson, alleging that Quiles's injuries were caused by Johnson's negligence in driving the truck. The district court[1] granted Johnson's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Quiles was a dual employee of Swift and Johnson, and therefore workers' compensation benefits were Quiles's exclusive remedy under the Iowa workers' compensation statute. Quiles appeals, arguing that genuine issues of material fact preclude the conclusion that he was Johnson's employee under Iowa law. Reviewing the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, including its interpretation of state law, we affirm. See HIP, Inc. v. Hormel Foods Corp., 888 F.3d 334, 338 (8th Cir. 2018) (standard of review).


         New Swift drivers must complete Swift's commercial driving training program before they may drive a truck on their own. Swift hired Quiles as an at-will commercial driving trainee in November 2014. Swift's Driver Handbook, which Quiles received and signed during orientation, described the training program as a mandatory driver-mentor "apprenticeship program." The program required Quiles to complete at least two hundred hours of behind-the-wheel driving with an assigned mentor, who evaluates the trainee's performance. For the first fifty hours, the mentor must sit in the passenger seat as the trainee drives. Thereafter, the trainee and mentor may "team drive," meaning that while one drives, the other is off duty and may remain in the truck's sleeper berth, which increases allowed operating time.

         After orientation, Quiles completed fifty hours of training with a mentor but left this relationship and resigned from the program after the mentor failed to pick Quiles up at a prearranged location. Swift's driver development supervisor persuaded Quiles not to leave the program and assigned him a new mentor, Alan Johnson. Quiles began training with Johnson in early December 2014. Johnson and trainee Quiles did not sign a written agreement. Johnson's contract with Swift allowed him to participate in Swift's driver-mentor program by paying Swift $.05 "per loaded dispatched mile" driven with a Swift trainee. The contract provided that a trainee "shall remain a [Swift] employee during the period of time he/she is assigned to [Johnson's] truck. Any driver/trainee shall be considered a loaned employee or borrowed servant under applicable law." Johnson could not terminate Quiles' relationship with Swift, but Johnson could refuse to accept Quiles as a trainee and could discontinue the mentor relationship at any time. Likewise, Quiles could refuse or discontinue a mentor relationship at any time.

         Because Quiles had completed fifty hours of training, he and mentor Johnson were authorized to team drive for the balance of Quiles's training. When they drove as a team, as on the day of the accident, each operated under his separate agreement with Swift. Swift hired Johnson for specific trips as an independent trucking contractor. Johnson decided when he would transport shipments for Swift, which determined when his truck would operate with driver trainee Quiles. Swift paid trainee Quiles an hourly wage when he rode with mentor Johnson. Swift's training program required the mentor to complete a Student Performance Assessment for every fifty hours of driving completed by the trainee; the trainee was required to complete Swift's Driver Training Paperwork. When off duty in the sleeping berth, mentor Johnson could monitor Quiles' driving via an application on his phone. All three contracting parties benefitted from this arrangement -- Johnson received Quiles' labor, permitting Johnson's truck to operate more hours with team driving. Quiles received instruction from Johnson, an hourly wage from Swift when team driving with Johnson, and credit toward completing the training program. Swift received the benefit of having shipments delivered with team driving while its trainee advanced toward becoming an employee qualified to drive a Swift truck on his own.


         "When an employer's workers' compensation liability is insured and benefits are recoverable, an action for workers' compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy available to an employee against an employer for work-related injury." Subcliff v. Brandt Engineered Prods., Ltd., 459 F.Supp.2d 843, 850 (S.D. Iowa 2006); see Iowa Code § 85.20(1) (2014). The workers' compensation statute defines "worker" or "employee" as "a person who has entered into the employment of, or works under contract of service, express or implied, or apprenticeship, for an employer." § 85.61(11). The critical issue in determining whether an injured worker is limited to the exclusive workers' compensation remedy "is whether the worker entered into a contract of hire, express or implied." Parson v. Procter & Gamble Mfg. Co., 514 N.W.2d 891, 893 (Iowa 1994). "The intent of the parties is the overriding element in determining whether an employment contract existed." Rouse v. State, 369 N.W.2d 811, 814 (Iowa 1985). "In Iowa, a contract will be implied where there has been a mutual manifestation of assent by acts and deeds (rather than words) to the same terms of an agreement." McBride v. City of Sioux City, 444 N.W.2d 85, 90 (Iowa 1989).

         Under the Iowa statute, as in other States, "an employee may have more than one employer." Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Shook, 313 N.W.2d 503, 506 (Iowa 1981); see Beaver v. Jacuzzi Bros., Inc., 454 F.2d 284, 285 (8th Cir. 1972) ("As a matter of common experience and of present business practices . . . it is clear that an employee may be employed by more than one employer even while doing the same work."). A claim of dual employment may be made by a putative employee seeking workers' compensation benefits, or by a putative employer seeking to limit the plaintiff in a tort action to the exclusive workers' compensation remedy. Dual employment is not contrary to policies underlying the workers' compensation statute. "Nothing in the statute prohibits joint employers from allocating between themselves the responsibility for obtaining insurance for their mutual workers' compensation liability." Subcliff, 459 F.Supp.2d at 851. In a dual employment case, the question is whether an employee of a "general" employer -- here, Swift -- simultaneously served as the employee of a "special" employer -- here, Johnson. "Although in Iowa an employee may have two employers, the presumption is that a general employer, such as [Swift], is the sole employer." Swanson v. White Consol. Inds., Inc., 30 F.3d 971, 974 (8th Cir. 1994); see Parson, 514 N.W.2d at 894. The sole issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in concluding that, at the time of the accident, Quiles was the dual employee of Swift and Johnson.

         As the district court noted, in the great majority of reported dual employment or "borrowed worker" decisions, the general employer was a temporary employment agency or broker in the business of "loaning" its employees to clients on a temporary basis to do the clients' work for a fee. Because the broker employed the temporary worker, paid his or her wages and fringe benefits, and paid premiums to provide workers' compensation insurance covering the temporary work, the question was whether the client was a special employer when the temporary employee suffered a work-related injury. In Iowa, these cases have turned on a fact-intensive analysis of whether there was a separate contract for hire, express or implied, between the employee and the special employer. See Parson, 514 N.W.2d at 894-97 (no express contract; strong evidence special employer did not intend to employ; summary judgment for employer reversed); Fletcher v. Apache Hose & Belting Co., 519 N.W.2d 839, 840-41 (Iowa App. 1994) (no express contract but intent to employ temporary worker clear; special employer prevailed); Jones v. Sheller-Globe Corp., 487 N.W.2d 88, 93 (Iowa App. 1992) (special employer prevailed because of its exclusive control over and benefit from the loaned employee's work; workers ...

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