DONALD T. MCKINLEY Petitioner
PRESSURE WASHING SYSTEMS, LLC., and UNINSURED EMPLOYERS' FUND Respondents.
Submitted: October 31, 2019
ORDER GRANTING RESPONDENT UNINSURED EMPLOYERS'
FUND'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING
PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. SANDLER JUDGE.
Petitioner, a resident of West Virginia, asserts that he is
entitled to Montana workers' compensation benefits from
Respondent Uninsured Employers' Fund (UEF) for injuries
he suffered in a motor vehicle accident near Billings.
Petitioner was driving a pickup truck he rented from a West
Virginia company to haul an RV from a transport company
located in Indiana. Petitioner asserts that the agreement
under which he rented the truck created an employment
relationship with the West Virginia company. The UEF asserts
that Petitioner is not entitled to Montana workers'
compensation benefits because the West Virginia company was
not his employer under Montana law.
This Court grants summary judgment to Respondents. Petitioner
did not have an employment relationship with the West
Virginia company under Montana law. The only agreement
Petitioner had with the West Virginia company was an
agreement with its co-owner under which Petitioner rented one
of the company's pickup trucks which, as a matter of
Montana law, does not constitute a contract of hire. Because
the West Virginia company was not Petitioner's employer,
it was not required to furnish workers' compensation
coverage under Montana law and Petitioner is not entitled to
benefits. Because the UEF is not liable for benefits, the
putative employer is not obligated to indemnify the UEF and,
therefore, the putative employer is also entitled to summary
1 Respondent Uninsured Employers' Fund (UEF) moves for
summary judgment, asserting that Petitioner Donald T.
McKinley is not entitled to Montana workers' compensation
benefits for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle
accident near Billings. The UEF argues that McKinley did not
have an employment relationship with a West Virginia company,
Pressure Washing Systems, LLC (Pressure Washing Systems),
from which McKinley rented a pickup truck.
2 McKinley moves for summary judgment, asserting that he had
an employment relationship with Pressure Washing Systems
pursuant to the agreement under which he rented the truck.
Because Pressure Washing Systems did not have Montana
workers' compensation insurance, McKinley asserts that
the UEF is liable for his benefits. McKinley also claims that
the UEF's denial of liability was unreasonable and that
he is therefore entitled to a penalty and attorney fees.
3 Neither the UEF nor McKinley requested a hearing.
4 For the reasons discussed below, this Court grants the
UEF's summary judgment motion, grants summary judgment to
Pressure Washing Systems, and denies McKinley's summary
5 At all times relevant to this case, McKinley was a resident
of West Virginia.
6 Pressure Washing Systems was a West Virginia limited
liability company. Its business was washing concrete
structures and parking lots.
7 Pressure Washing Systems did not have an office nor any
facilities in Montana. It never engaged in the pressure
washing business in Montana.
8 Terri Brown owned half of Pressure Washing Systems. Jason
Flynn owned the other half. Brown is a resident of West
Virginia and has not lived nor worked in Montana. Brown
managed the company and was responsible for its day-to-day
operations, including hiring and firing employees. Flynn did
not participate in Pressure Washing Systems' day-to-day
9 Brown's romantic partner and the father of her
children, Collin Cehrs, worked as an employee of Pressure
Washing Systems as its "Chief Engineer." Cehrs had
no ownership interest in Pressure Washing Systems. Although
Cehrs was oftentimes present when Brown hired Pressure
Washing Systems' employees, he had no authority to hire
or fire its employees.
10 In early 2018, Brown and Flynn decided to close Pressure
Washing Systems and sell its assets.
11 On May 15, 2018, Pressure Washing Systems issued the last
paychecks to its employees.
12 Pressure Washing Systems owned four, 2017 Dodge Ram 2500
pickup trucks. After Brown and Flynn decided to close
Pressure Washing Systems, they sold two of these trucks.
13 In August 2018, Brown, Cehrs, and McKinley entered into
agreements under which Cehrs and McKinley could use Pressure
Washing Systems' remaining trucks to haul RVs for
Pinnacle Fleet, an RV transport company with a location in
Indiana. McKinley acknowledges that he "was hired by
Col[l]in Cehrs as a driver." Pinnacle Fleet pays its
drivers with prepaid credit cards, but Cehrs agreed to pay
McKinley for his driving services. On August 13, 2018, Brown
drafted a statement, which was notarized, stating:
I Terri Brown give permission to Collin Cehrs & Donald
McKinley to drive my trucks to haul campers for Pinnacle
I'm the owner of Pressure Washing Systems LLC.
/s/ Terri L. Brown
exchange for permission to use the truck, McKinley agreed to
pay Brown and Cehrs the amount of Pressure Washing
Systems' truck's monthly loan payments.
14 Shortly thereafter, Cehrs and McKinley began transporting
RVs from Pinnacle Fleet's location in Indiana to
locations in other states. They used Pressure Washing
15 In mid-January 2019, Brown asked Cehrs to tell McKinley
that he needed to return the truck he had rented to West
Virginia, so it could be sold.
16 On January 22, 2019, McKinley suffered injuries in a motor
vehicle accident while driving Pressure Washing Systems'
truck near Billings. He was hauling an RV.
17 In an answer to an interrogatory asking McKinley to
identify who paid him for his driving services on January 22,
2019, McKinley stated, in relevant part: "Collin Cehrs
paid [me] through Pinnacle Fleet for driving services that
were performed on January 22, 2019."
18 On April 17, 2019, McKinley filed a First Report of Injury
or Occupational Disease, asserting that he was an employee of
Pressure Washing Systems at the time of the accident.
19 Pressure Washing Systems did not have Montana workers'
compensation insurance. Thus, ...