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Rollins v. Hinds County Sheriff's Department

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 17, 2019

DELORISE ROLLINS APPELLANT
v.
HINDS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT AND MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC ENTITIES' WORKERS' COMPENSATION TRUST APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/16/2018

          MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: AMANDA GRACE HILL ROGEN K. CHHABRA

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: MICHAEL D. YOUNG

         EN BANC.

          J. WILSON, P.J.

         ¶1. Delorise Rollins was employed by Quality Choice Correctional Healthcare (Quality Choice) as a nurse at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. Quality Choice had a contract with Hinds County to provide comprehensive medical care to inmates at the Detention Center. Rollins was injured on the job in 2013 and eventually pursued a workers' compensation claim against Quality Choice for that injury. She sustained a second injury at work in 2014, but Quality Choice's workers' compensation coverage had been cancelled prior to her second injury. Rollins filed a workers' compensation claim related to her second injury against the Hinds County Sheriff's Department (HCSD), alleging that HCSD was obligated to provide benefits as a "general contractor" and her "statutory employer." Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-7(6) (Supp. 2019). The Workers' Compensation Commission ruled that HCSD was not liable for workers' compensation benefits because it was not Rollins's statutory employer. We agree with the Commission's determination and therefore affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. As stated above, Rollins was employed by Quality Choice as a nurse at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond. She alleged that she sustained injuries at work in August 2013 and September 2014. For each injury, she filed a petition to controvert with the Workers' Compensation Commission. In both petitions, she alleged that HCSD was liable for workers' compensation benefits as her "statutory employer" because her actual employer, Quality Choice, was without workers' compensation coverage. It was later determined that Quality Choice did have coverage at the time of Rollins's first injury but that its insurance carrier validly and effectively cancelled the policy prior to Rollins's second injury.[1] As a result, Rollins amended her first petition to identify Quality Choice and its carrier as the employer/carrier, and HCSD was dismissed from that case.

         ¶3. In response to Rollins's second petition to controvert, HCSD denied that it was Rollins's "statutory employer." HCSD produced Quality Choice's contract with Hinds County to provide comprehensive medical care for inmates at detention facilities including the Detention Center at Raymond. HCSD also produced a quitclaim deed showing that Hinds County owns the property on which the Detention Center is located.

         ¶4. The administrative judge held that HCSD was not Rollins's statutory employer based on "a thorough review of all pertinent and current case law and the totality of circumstances surrounding this claim." The judge stated that "[a] controlling point is the fact that Hinds County . . . was the owner of the detention center/penal farm at all relevant times applicable to the alleged incidents and the claimant was an employee of Quality Choice . . . at all relevant times." The judge's order also quoted a relevant paragraph of the Mississippi Supreme Court's opinion in Thomas v. Chevron U.S.A. Inc., 212 So.3d 58 (Miss. 2017):

In sum, this Court never has treated the owner of land as a prime or general contractor for purposes of the Workers' Compensation Act. Here, Chevron was the owner of the plant. The fact that Chevron contracted with APS for certain maintenance and other work does not change Chevron's status as an owner. APS is the chief or prime contractor. A chief or prime contractor is defined as one who has a contract with the owner of a project or job, and has full responsibility for its completion.

Id. at 64 (ΒΆ22) (quotation marks omitted). Because the administrative judge held that HCSD was not Rollins's statutory employer, she ruled that HCSD was not liable for any workers' compensation benefits. The full Commission affirmed in a one-page order that adopted ...


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