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Bouldin v. Uninsured Employers' Fund

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

October 22, 1997

DWIGHT "LARRY" BOULDIN Petitioner
v.
UNINSURED EMPLOYERS' FUND/ LARRY HURT OR ROGER LUCAS CONSTRUCTION Respondents.

          July 23, 1997

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          Mike McCarter Judge

         Summary: Petitioner alleged he was injured in the course and scope of employment as a carpenter. The parties stipulated that petitioner had executed a workers' compensation and unemployment insurance contractor exemption application affidavit and been granted an Independent Contractor Exemption which remained in effect on the date of alleged injury. They also stipulated that the individuals who hired petitioner checked on his independent contractor status and would not have hired him but for the exemption. (See Wild v. Montana State Compensation Fund, 2003 MT 115 ; Mathews v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp., 2003 MT 116. Section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1999), in which Supreme Court held that the workers' compensation statutes, when read together, do not preclude factual inquiry into whether an employee/employer relationship exists even though the worker has been issued an independent contractor exemption.)

         Held: Under section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1995), the independent contractor exemption (based on an application approved by the Department) is conclusive as to the status of a independent contractor and precludes petitioner from obtaining benefits. The WCC rejects petitioner's argument that the Court must separately determine the existence of criteria set out in section 39-71-120, MCA (1995) and make an independent contractor determination. While section 39-71-120, MCA (1995) lays out the substantive criteria for making the independent contractor determination, section 39-71-401(3), MCA, provides that the Department of Labor is the forum for making that determination and once the determination is made, i.e., the exemption is issued, that determination is conclusive.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-71-120, MCA (1995). Under section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1995), the independent contractor exemption (based on an application approved by the Department) is conclusive and precludes petitioner from obtaining benefits. Where the parties stipulated an IC exemption was in effect governing the work of a carpenter, and that the parties hiring the petitioner checked on the existence of the exemption and relied on the exemption, the WCC rejects petitioner's argument that the Court must separately determine the existence of criteria set out in section 39-71-120, MCA (1995). While section 39-71-120, MCA (1995), lays out the substantive criteria for making the independent contractor determination, section 39-71-401(3), MCA, provides that the Department of Labor is the forum for making that determination and once the determination is made, i.e., the exemption is issued, that determination is conclusive.
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1995). Under section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1995), the independent contractor exemption (based on an application approved by the Department) is conclusive and precludes petitioner from obtaining benefits. Where the parties stipulated an IC exemption was in effect governing the work of a carpenter, and that the parties hiring the petitioner checked on the existence of the exemption and relied on the exemption, the WCC rejects petitioner's argument that the Court must separately determine the existence of criteria set out in section 39-71-120, MCA (1995). While section 39-71-120, MCA (1995), lays out the substantive criteria for making the independent contractor determination, section 39-71-401(3), MCA, provides that the Department of Labor is the forum for making that determination and once the determination is made, i.e., the exemption is issued, that determination is conclusive.
Independent Contractor: Independent Contractor Exemption. Under section 39-71-401(3), MCA (1995), the independent contractor exemption (based on an application approved by the Department) is conclusive and precludes petitioner from obtaining benefits. Where the parties stipulated an IC exemption was in effect governing the work of a carpenter, and that the parties hiring the petitioner checked on the existence of the exemption and relied on the exemption, the WCC rejects petitioner's argument that the Court must separately determine the existence of criteria set out in section 39-71-120, MCA (1995). While section 39-71-120, MCA (1995), lays out the substantive criteria for making the independent contractor determination, section 39-71-401(3), MCA, provides that the Department of Labor is the forum for making that determination and once the determination is made, i.e., the exemption is issued, that determination is conclusive.

         This case comes to the Court on an agreed statement of facts and exhibits.

         Petitioner herein, Dwight "Larry" Bouldin (Bouldin), alleges that he was injured in the course and scope of employment with Larry Hurt or Roger Lucas Construction (Hurt and Lucas). Since Hurt and Lucas were uninsured, his claim was submitted to the Uninsured Employers' Fund (UEF). The UEF, Hurt and Lucas deny that Bouldin was an employee and affirmatively allege that Bouldin held an independent contractor exemption upon which Hurt and Lucas relied when they contracted with him. They argue that he cannot now seek workers' compensation benefits.

         Citing section 39-71-401(2), MCA, the UEF and Hurt further allege that Bouldin was not hired for any business or trade in which Hurt was engaged and that Hurt was therefore exempt from workers' compensation coverage requirements and was not an uninsured employer within the meaning of section 39-71-501, MCA. This issue is not presented to the Court at the present time and in light of the resolution of the first issue it is unnecessary for the Court to address it at all.

         Similarly, the estoppel defenses raised in the responses need not be addressed.

         Facts and Exhibits

         The agreed facts are set forth in the Stipulation of Facts executed by the parties' attorneys and filed with the Court on June 26, 1997. Those facts are as follows:

         1. The Petitioner, Dwight Bouldin, was injured on December 19, 1996, while working as a carpenter on a construction job at the residence of Larry Hurt.

         2. At the time of the accident, neither of the Additional Respondents, Larry Hurt or Roger Lucas, were insured ...


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