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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monarrez v. Automobile Club of Southern California: Supreme Court Issues Grant-and-Hold Order in Independent Contractor Action

In Monarrez v. Automobile Club of Southern California (12/12/12) (discussed here) the Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order granting summary judgment to a defendant in a third party liability case alleging that a tow truck driver was an Automobile Club employee, rather than an independent contractor. 

On February 13, 2013, the California Supreme Court granted review and held briefing pending its decision in Patterson v. Domino's Pizza (6/27/12) (discussed here).  In Patterson, the plaintiff sued a Domino's Pizza franchisee and the franchisor, alleging that both were responsible for sexual harassment by her supervisor.  The Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order granting summary judgment for the franchisor, holding that evidence of control by the franchisor raised "reasonable inferences" supporting the plaintiff's claim that the franchisee was not merely an independent contractor, and that this was sufficient to defeat summary judgment. 

The Supreme Court granted review, limited to the question of "whether the defendant franchisor is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that it is vicariously liable for tortious conduct by a supervising employee of a franchisee." 

This is very interesting because, as I noted in my original post on Monarrez, that is a third party tort liability case, while the cases on which the Court of Appeal relied, S.G. Borello & Sons, and Estrada v. FedEx, were cases by putative independent contractors against a putative employer. I have always understood that the tests in these two types of cases differed substantially, and it will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court draws a distinction. 

Patterson is Case No. S204543, and the Court's case summary page is here.  Monarrez is Case No. S207726, and the Court's case summary page is here

If you want to stay current on developments in these cases, you can register for email alerts on the Supreme Court's case summary pages. 

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