17. Employee Status

City of Sturgis v Messner – 17.07

City of Sturgis v Messner
Digest no. 17.07

Section 42

Cite as: City of Sturgis v Messner, unpublished opinion of the St. Joseph Circuit Court, issued February 27, 1979 (No. 78-590).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Ann Messner
Employer: City of Sturgis
Docket no.: L77 7267 1531
Date of decision: February 27, 1979

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CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Where a nurse-anesthetist declines employee status, signs a contract to provide services at a hospital as an independent contractor, and retains the right to perform services elsewhere, the doctrine of “economic reality” does not apply, and the claimant is an independent contractor.

FACTS: Ann Messner was a full-time nurse-anesthetist at Sturgis Hospital. A written contract specified her status as “independent contractor”. She declined status as an employee. The hospital purchased her supplies and scheduled her hours on duty. She received 25 percent of patient billings. Ms. Messner was required to remain on call and to maintain malpractice insurance.

DECISION: The claimant was an independent contractor, and not an employee.

RATIONALE: “[T]his Court finds that it is clear from all of the testimony and evidence that claimant Messner was at all times an independent contractor; that she was not an employee; that she had a free choice of whether she would be an employee or an independent contractor and she, after consulting with independent legal counsel, opted to be an independent contractor instead of choosing to be an employee; that over and aside from her acknowledging that she was and her choosing to be an independent contractor above her written signature, all of the evidence establishes that is exactly what she was, along with another nurse anesthetist named Thaddeus Juszckak; that she had the right to perform her services at other hospitals and was not restricted to the Sturgis hospital; that in the opinion of this Court this case is not at all close on the facts as to whether she was an independent contractor or an employee.”

“In the opinion of this Court, the ‘economic reality’ doctrine has no application to personnel of this type, or to the facts in this case.”

Digest Author: Board of Review (original digest here)
Digest Updated: