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Southeastern Auto Brokers v. Graves

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 14, 2015

SOUTHEASTERN AUTO BROKERS APPELLANT
v.
LUCIOUS GRAVES APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/11/2014

MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION APPEALED: COMMISSION

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: CHADWICK LESTER SHOOK

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: CHASE FORD MORGAN

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ.

GRIFFIS, P.J.

¶1. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission ruled that Lucious Graves was injured during the course and scope of his employment with Southeastern Auto Brokers. As a result, the Commission ordered Southeastern to pay Graves's workers' compensation benefits. Southeastern challenges the Commission's ruling, and argues: (1) Graves was an independent contractor, not an employee, and (2) even if Graves qualified as an employee, workers' compensation laws did not apply. We find no error and affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. In 2006, Graves started to work for Nick Crechale. Crechale owned and operated three used-car businesses, Southeastern Auto Brokers, Inc., Southeastern J&P Auto Brokers, LLC, and Discount Car Lot, Inc. (Unless specifically noted, all three entities will be referred to as "Southeastern.") Graves's employment primarily included auto-detailing work. Graves also performed odd jobs around the auto lots, such as operating heavy equipment and hauling trash. He also worked on Crechale's farm.

¶3. On November 10, 2010, Graves fell from a trailer while offloading vehicles for Southeastern. His little (or "pinky") finger was amputated. Graves underwent surgery and treatment for the amputation. However, due to his temporary disability, Graves was not able to return to work for several months. Graves attained maximum medical improvement on May 18, 2011.

¶4. Graves sought to have Southeastern pay for the medical bills and lost wages during the time of his disability. Southeastern refused. On September 22, 2011, Graves filed a petition to controvert with the Commission.

¶5. Southeastern responded and argued that Graves was not an employee of Southeastern. Southeastern claimed Graves was an independent contractor. Southeastern also claimed that the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act did not apply because Southeastern did not employ five or more employees as required.

¶6. After a hearing, Administrative Judge Robert J. Arnold III ruled for Graves. Judge Arnold found that Graves was an employee, not an independent contractor. Judge Arnold also found Southeastern regularly employed five or more employees, which subjected it to workers' compensation laws. Judge Arnold's order, dated August 29, 2013, required Southeastern pay Graves's medical bills and compensation for his temporary disability, from the time of the accident through his maximum medical improvement.

ΒΆ7. Southeastern appealed Judge Arnold's decision. The Commission adopted Judge Arnold's findings, and made additional findings. Based on its findings, the Commission affirmed the order. ...


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