Bowman v. Wyatt, 186 Cal.App.4th 286 (2010)

Plaintiff Barry A. Bowman filed this case after suffering devastating injuries when his motorcycle collided with a dump truck owned and operated by Tommie Wyatt, Jr. The collision occurred shortly after Wyatt had delivered a load of asphalt to a work site of the City of Los Angeles with which Wyatt was under contract. The jury found that Wyatt was an employee of the city and returned a verdict in Bowman’s favor in the amount of $15.7 million. On appeal, the city argued that the trial court had misinstructed the jury on the factors it should consider in determining whether Wyatt was an employee or independent contractor of the city.

The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the judgment as to the city, holding that jury instruction CACI No. 3704 incorrectly states the law because it instructs a jury that the right of control, by itself, is dispositive in determining employee (as opposed to independent contractor) status and does not take into account other factors such as whether the worker is engaged in a distinct occupation or business, the skill required in the particular occupation, whether the worker supplies the tools and the place of work, the length of time for which the services are to be performed, etc. Cf. Tverberg v. Fillner Constr., Inc., 2010 WL 2557558 (Cal. S. Ct. 2010) (independent contractor may not hold hiring party vicariously liable for injuries resulting from contractor’s own failure to effectively guard against risks inherent in the contracted work).