Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. All Star Lawn Specialists Plus, Inc. (Opinion on Application)Annotate this Case
While working on a fall clean-up job for defendant All Star Specialists Plus, Inc., defendant Joseph Derry was loading leaves into a truck using a leaf vacuum machine when the machine tipped over, injuring him. At the time, All Star had three insurance policies issued by Auto-Owners Insurance Company: (1) a commercial general liability policy, (2) a commercial automobile insurance (no-fault) policy, and (3) a commercial workers’ compensation policy. The general liability policy excludes from coverage “[a]ny obligation of the insured under a workers[’] compensation . . . law,” and the no-fault policy excludes coverage for “any expenses that would be payable under any workers[’] compensation law . . . .” Derry brought a negligence suit against All Star and one of its owners, Jeffery Harrison, for his injuries and sued Auto-Owners for no-fault benefits. Plaintiff Auto-Owners later filed this declaratory judgment action, seeking a determination that Derry was an employee of All Star and, thus, that the only insurance coverage available was under the workers’ compensation policy. The trial court concluded that because it was uncontroverted that Derry held himself out to the public to perform the same services as the work he performed for All Star, Derry was an independent contractor at the time of
his injury and not an employee, and that Derry was therefore entitled to coverage under Auto-Owners’ general liability and no-fault policies. The court denied Auto-Owners’ motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of Derry. Auto-Owners appealed to the Court of Appeals, and the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part. The panel affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that Derry was an independent contractor for purposes of the Worker's Disability Compensation Act (WDCA). However, the panel only reached this conclusion because it was bound under MCR 7.215(J)(1) to follow the Court of Appeals’ prior decision in "Amerisure." A special panel was convened, and in a published 4-3 decision, the majority reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Derry and, thus, its determination that Derry was an independent contractor. Because the Supreme Court believed the term “employee” as defined in the WDCA was properly interpreted in "Amerisure," the Court reversed the Court of Appeals.