Max Trucking, LLC v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Corp., No. 14-2115 (6th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Max Trucking transports freight throughout the United States, maintaining a staff of six dispatchers at its Michigan headquarters. The dispatchers find jobs on websites and contact one of 76 truck drivers, including about 20 drivers based in Michigan, to offer the load to that driver. The Michigan Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA) requires employers to maintain worker’s compensation insurance coverage for their employees. Liberty Mutual issued Max a policy, which it renewed annually for several years. In 2011, Liberty audited Max and determined that 16–18 Michigan-based drivers, who leased trucks from Max through a lease-to-buy program, were employees, not independent contractors, and increased Max’s policy premium. Max has not paid the premium increase and sought a declaratory judgment that drivers operating under the lease-to-buy program are not employees but are independent contractors under the WDCA. Liberty filed a counterclaim, seeking unpaid premiums totaling $101,592. The Sixth Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual, agreeing that the truckers are employees, despite evidence that that they may decline to work, can incur a financial loss, made a significant financial investment in the vehicle purchase, and receive all tax deductions and depreciation of the vehicles on their personal tax returns.