Thursday, December 15, 2011

Court reviews whether plaintiff was an employee or independent contractor, and an award for punitive damages

JEFFREY L. DILLON v. NICA, INC., ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. December 15, 2011)

After his claim for insurance benefits for an injury sustained while making a delivery was denied, plaintiff filed suit against the delivery company, the company providing the insurance coverage and its president, and the third party administrator of the insurance plan, asserting causes of action for breach of contract, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and conspiracy to evade the Tennessee Workers' Compensation Act. The jury found the company providing the insurance and its president liable for violation of the Consumer Protection Act and awarded compensatory and punitive damages.

On appeal, the insurance company and president contend that the trial court erred in finding that the plaintiff was an employee of delivery company rather than an independent contractor, in excluding various exhibits and testimony, in denying the president's motion for a directed verdict, and in awarding punitive damages. Because the punitive damage awarded was predicated on the violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, which does not authorize an award of punitive damages, the award of punitive damages is vacated and the case remanded for a determination of whether an award of treble damages under the Consumer Protection Act should be awarded. In all other respects, the judgment and rulings are affirmed.

Opinion available at:

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