Atain Specialty Ins. v. Ne. Mountain Guiding, LLC (D. N.J. 2020)
ATAIN SPECIALTY INSURANCE CO. Plaintiff,
NORTHEAST MOUNTAIN GUIDING, LLC, et al., Defendants.
Case No. 3:16-cv-05129-BRM-LHG
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
January 30, 2020
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
MARTINOTTI, DISTRICT JUDGE
Before this Court are Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 70 & 73) filed by Plaintiff Atain Specialty Insurance Co. (“Atain”) and Third-Party Defendants Donald Pachner, Pachner & Associates, LLC, and Pachner Risk Management (collectively, “Pachner”). Defendant Michael Manchester (“Manchester”) opposes both motions. (ECF No. 80.) Defendants Northeast Mountain Guiding, LLC (“NMG”), Joseph Vulpis (“Vulpis”), and Bryan Enberg (“Enberg”) also oppose both motions. (ECF No. 86.) Pachner supports part and opposes part of Atain’s motion. (ECF No. 81.) Atain opposes part of Pachner’s motion and takes no position as to the remainder. (ECF No. 85.)
Having reviewed the parties’ submissions filed in connection with the motions and having declined to hear oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b), for the reasons set forth below and for good cause having been shown, Atain’s motion is DENIED and Pachner’s motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Northeast Mountain Guiding and Its Guides
Vulpis is the founder and sole member of NMG, a limited liability company in the outdoor adventure and education industry. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 4.) Vulpis has significant training and experience, as well as multiple certifications, in the field in which NMG operates. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶¶ 5-7.) Enberg provided administrative assistance to NMG, developed a search and rescue training for NMG to provide to clients, and served as a mountaineering guide for NMG. (ECF No. 86-15 ¶ 3.) Manchester performed work for NMG as a Lead Backpacking Guide and Assistant Rock Guide. (ECF No. 70-8, at 16:6-20.)
B. Pachner Procures Insurance from Atain for Northeast Mountain Guiding
Donald Pachner is the sole member of Pachner & Associates, LLC and Pachner Risk Management, LLC. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶ 1.) Donald Pachner and Pachner & Associates, LLC possess insurance broker licenses under New Jersey law. (ECF No. 73-31, at 1-2.)
Vulpis retained Pachner to obtain general commercial liability insurance for NMG. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶ 7.) As part of this process, Pachner and Vulpis worked together to fill out an application (the “Application”) for insurance. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶¶ 8-10; ECF No. 73-33, at ATN000331-41.) The Application required Vulpis to estimate NMG’s gross revenues for the coming year. (ECF No. 73-33, at ATN000332.) On Pachner’s advice, Vulpis checked the “No” box when answering the Application’s question concerning whether NMG “hire[s] Concessionaires, Independent Contractors, or Subcontractors.” (ECF No. 73-33, at ATN 000334; ECF No. 73-12, at 221:11-222:11.) As part of the Application, Vulpis initialed next to a requirement NMG (1) obtain from all participants an Atain-approved waiver of liability form, and (2) maintain those forms for three years. (ECF No. 70-17, at ATN000339.) In response to NMG’s Application, Atain issued an insurance quote (the “Quote”), which Vulpis reviewed with Pachner. (ECF No. 72-1, at 233:24-234:23.) Among other things, the Quote contains a summary of several of the terms the Policy would contain. (ECF No. 73-37, at 2.)
Pachner procured insurance (the “Policy”) from Atain for NMG. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶ 12.) The Policy limits coverage to “GUIDED MOUNTAINEERING INCLUDING TOP ROPE CLIMBING & RAPPELLING; GUIDED KAYAK TRIPS; GUIDED SNOWSHOEING; GUIDED HIKING/BACKPACKING INCLUDING CAMPING.” (ECF No. 86-6, at Atain 47.) The Policy excludes coverage for injuries suffered “in the course of employment by or service to” NMG. (ECF No. 70-5, at ATN000402.)
C. Manchester’s Injury
On November 21, 2015, Manchester suffered an injury (the “Injury”) while using certain equipment (the “Equipment”) to engage in a certain activity (the “Activity”). Much of the dispute in this case centers on the proper characterization of the Activity and the Equipment. The essence of the Activity is that the participant uses the Equipment to move between two points. (ECF No. 73-12, at 16:2-7.) The evidence conflicts concerning whether the Equipment is a “Tyrolean Traverse” or a “Clifftop Zipline.” (ECF No. 86-14 ¶¶ 33-36; ECF No. 73-12, at 75:1-10, 186:6-191:4.) Ziplines were derived from Tyrolean Traverses, but the differences are too fine for untrained individuals to differentiate between the two. (ECF No. 73-12, at 58:5-7.)
On November 21, 2015, three NMG guides—Christy DeMarco, Enberg, and Vulpis—went to Allamuchy State Park to test the Equipment NMG expected to offer in the future for its customers. Vulpis and the other three guides set up the Equipment. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 46.) Manchester was present at the time, and engaged in the Activity by traveling on the Equipment. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶¶ 46-47.) While engaged in the Activity, Manchester suffered the Injury. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 47.)
Following his Injury, Manchester filed a state court negligence action against Vulpis, Enberg, and NMG. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 12.) NMG made a claim for coverage with Pachner and Atain. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 51-52.) When reporting the claim to Atain, Pachner described Manchester as an independent contractor for NMG. (ECF No. 70-21, at 161:11-13.)
Atain filed this coverage action against its Vulpis, Enberg, and NMG, and also joined Manchester as a defendant. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 1-5.) Atain seeks declaratory judgments against Vulpis, Enberg, NMG, and Manchester, authorizing Atain to disclaim coverage Manchester’s Injury. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 31-51.) Additionally, Atain seeks a declaratory judgment voiding the Policy under common law rescission principles and the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 17:33A-1 et seq. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 52-65.)
Vulpis, Enberg, and NMG brought a third-party action against NMG’s insurance broker Pachner, alleging Pachner’s negligence caused any failure of coverage by Atain. (ECF No. 29 ¶¶ 28-34.) Manchester brought a similar action against Pachner. (ECF No. 28, at 3-7.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000). A factual dispute is genuine only if there is “a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party,” and it is material only if it has the ability to “affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.” Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. See id. at 248. “In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party’s evidence ‘is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'” Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, (1986); Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002). “Summary judgment may not be granted . . . if there is a disagreement over what inferences can be reasonably drawn from the facts even if the facts are undisputed.” Nathanson v. Med. Coll. of Pa., 926 F.2d 1368, 1380 (3rd Cir. 1991) (citing Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 340 (3d Cir.)); Ideal Dairy Farms, Inc. v. John Labatt, Ltd., 90 F.3d 737, 744 (3d Cir. 1996).
The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing the basis for its motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party bears the burden of persuasion at trial, summary judgment is appropriate only if the evidence is not susceptible to different interpretations or inferences by the trier of fact. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 553 (1999). On the other hand, if the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the non-moving party, the party moving for summary judgment may satisfy Rule 56’s burden of production by either (1) “submit[ting] affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the non[-]moving party’s claim” or (2) demonstrating “that the nonmoving party’s evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330 (Brennan, J., dissenting). Once the movant adequately supports its motion pursuant to Rule 56(c), the burden shifts to the non-moving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324; see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; Ridgewood Bd. of Ed. v. Stokley, 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999). In deciding the merits of a party’s motion for summary judgment, the court’s role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
There can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact,” however, if a party fails “to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non[-]moving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323; Katz v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 972 F.2d 53, 55 (3d Cir. 1992).
A. Coverage for “Guided Mountaineering”
Atain and Pachner both argue Manchester’s Injury is not covered under the Policy because the Policy covers only “guided mountaineering,” and Vulpis and Enberg both testified Manchester’s Injury did not occur during a “guided” activity. (ECF No. 72-1, at 221:4-10; ECF No. 70-7, at 115:19-116:6.) Conflicting evidence prevents the Court from granting summary judgment. First, Vulpis’s testimony was more nuanced than Atain and Pachner suggest. While Vulpis testified he would not consider the Activity to be “guided,” Vulpis did consider the Activity to be “part of guided mountaineering.” (ECF No. 72, at 115:22-116:2.) Second, Vulpis testified Manchester received training and instruction from both Vulpis and Enberg for the Activity immediately prior to Manchester’s Injury. (ECF No. 72, at 85:20-86:12.) A reasonable jury could conclude Vulpis’s and Enberg’s training and instruction “guided” Manchester, who had little previous experience with the Equipment. (ECF No. 72, at 28:7-10.)
The Court is unpersuaded by Atain’s and Pachner’s argument alleging Vulpis’s and Enberg’s testimonies demonstrate the parties’ “intent” the Policy not cover the Activity. “[W]hen interpreting an insurance contract, the basic rule is to determine the intention of the parties . . . .” Simonetti v. Selective Ins. Co., 859 A.2d 694, 698 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2004). While the contractual language is the Court’s primary tool, the Court may consider evidence of the parties’ intention beyond the four corners of the contract when, as here, the language of the insurance contract is ambiguous. See, e.g., Welcome v. Just Apts., No. L-9821-01, 2008 WL 2696252, at *3-4 (N.J. App. Div. July 11, 2008).
Vulpis’s and Enberg’s testimonies are two such pieces of evidence, but not the only evidence, of NMG’s intent when agreeing to the Policy. Other evidence suggests NMG did intend the Policy to cover the Activity. For instance, Vulpis testified he considered the Activity to be “part of guided mountaineering.” (ECF No. 72, at 115:22-116:2.) Enberg testified he understood a “guided” activity to be an activity in which there is “a guide who is leading the activity.”2 (ECF No. 70-7, at 115:17-18.) According to Vulpis’s testimony, this is exactly what happened. Vulpis and Enberg lead the Activity, instructing Manchester before Manchester participated. (ECF No. 72, at 85:20-86:12.) Manchester did not have the requisite training to serve as a guide on the Activity. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 11.) In light of this conflicting evidence, a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether or not the parties intended for the Policy to cover the Activity. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant summary judgment on this ground.
B. Injury “In the Course of Employment . . . or Service”
Atain next argues the Court should grant it summary judgment because the Employer’s Liability Exclusion precludes coverage for Manchester’s Injury because Manchester was acting “in the course of employment by or service to” NMG. (ECF No. 70-5, at ATN000402.) Pachner3 seeks summary judgment against Atain on this claim, arguing the Employer’s Liability Exclusion does not apply. Neither party is entitled to summary judgment concerning the effect of the Employer’s Liability Exclusion because the evidence conflicts concerning whether Manchester was, in fact, acting in the course of his NMG employment.
Several facts weigh in favor of finding Manchester was a participant acting outside the scope of his NMG employment at the time of his Injury. Manchester testified he had come to participate in the Activity because he “thought it would be fun.” (ECF No. 70-8, at 61:25-62:1.) Vulpis testified similarly: Manchester “came just to travel along the Tyrolean traverse. He wanted to try it out.” (ECF No. 72, at 85:13-14.) Manchester testified he never informed NMG he would be attending the Activity and further testified NMG did not know he would be attending. (ECF No. 70-8, at 62:18-20, 68:5-7.) Manchester did not consider himself an employee or representative of Vulpis or Enberg at the time of the Injury. (ECF No. 70-8, at 20:10-19.)
However, other factors weigh in favor of finding Manchester was acting within the scope of his employment or service to NMG. Most importantly, Manchester acknowledged he performed work for NMG as a Lead Backpacking Guide and Assistant Rock Guide. (ECF No. 70-8, at 16:6-20.) Vulpis and Manchester both testified Manchester came to be at Allamuchy State Park on the date of his Injury because Vulpis posted an invitation to a Facebook group whose members consisted only of NMG guides and staff. (ECF No. 72, at 56:11-57:14; ECF No. 70-8, at 162:8-21.) Enberg testified although Manchester was not involved in setting up the Equipment and mostly observed others do so, Manchester did help Enberg “pull tension once, so just pull on a rope for me.” (ECF No. 70-7, at 95:23-96:8.) Enberg also testified, “[A]s far as I know, we just there all volunteering and testing the system.” (ECF No. 70-7, at 96:19-20.)
In short, the conflicting evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact. Accordingly, no party is entitled to summary judgment either for or against Atain’s claim concerning whether the Employer’s Liability Exclusion precludes coverage.
C. Rescission of the Policy
Atain also argues it is entitled to rescind the Policy in light of NMG’s material misrepresentations in the Application. Pachner argues the Court should grant summary judgment against Atain because Atain ratified the Policy despite knowing of the misrepresentations. The Court cannot grant summary judgment either for or against rescission because genuine issues of material fact remain (1) concerning whether NMG knowingly misrepresented any material facts, and (2) about the factual bases for rescission.
“In the field of insurance, rescission has long been recognized as an available and necessary remedy to combat fraudulent behavior by an insured.” Rutgers Cas. Ins. Co. v. LaCroix, 946 A.2d 1027, 1035 (N.J. 2008). “It is settled that a material factual misrepresentation made in an application for insurance may justify rescission [of the resulting insurance policy] if the insurer relied upon it to determine whether or not to issue the policy.” Citizens United Reciprocal Exch. v. Perez, 121 A.2d 374, 378 (N.J. 2015). “Rescission voids the [insurance policy] ab initio, meaning that it is considered ‘null from the beginning’ and treated as if it does not exist for any purpose.” First Am. Title Ins. Co. v. Lawson, 827 A.2d 230, 237 (N.J. 2003).
Rescission of an insurance policy for fraudulent misrepresentation is appropriate if four conditions are satisfied: (1) the applicant must make an “untruthful” representation to the insurer, (2) the representation must be “material to the particular risk assumed by the insurer,” (3) the insurer must “actually and reasonably rel[y] upon [the representation] in the issuance of the policy,” and (4) if the “insurance application . . . calls for subjective information,” then “the insured [must] kn[o]w that the information was false when completing the application.” Id.
Examples of subjective information include when an insurer asks an insured to indicate a belief about the status of his or her health, or when . . . an insurer asks whether an applicant is aware of any circumstances which may result in a claim being made against the firm[.] [A] subjective question will not constitute equitable fraud if the question is directed toward probing the knowledge of the applicant and determining the state of his mind and . . . the answer is a correct statement of the applicant’s knowledge and belief[.]
Id. (citations omitted).
A “mere oversight or honest mistake” will not support rescission. Rutgers, 945 A.2d at 1035 (quoting Longobardi v. Chubb Ins. Co. of N.J., 582 A.2d 1257, 1261 (N.J. 1990)). “The lie must be willful.” Longobardi, 582 A.2d at 1261. The insurer bears the burden of demonstrating the applicant “knew and believed” the information provided on the application was false and “knowingly misrepresented” the information provided to be true, but need not demonstrate the applicant “harbored an intent to defraud.” Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Manzo, 584 A.2d 190, 195 (N.J. 1991).
1. Projected Revenues
First, Atain argues this Court should void the Policy because NMG materially misrepresented its projected revenues on its Application. The Court disagrees because the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant NMG, precludes the Court from finding NMG knowingly4 misrepresented its projected revenues.5
Atain argues the projected amount listed on the Application was substantially lower than NMG’s actual revenue for the year preceding the Application and disproportionately less than the revenue NMG actually received in the Policy year. The Court declines to find these numerical discrepancies demonstrate a knowing misrepresentation. Vulpis testified several considerations left him doubtful NMG would succeed financially in the coming year when he filled out the Application for NMG. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 23.) First, Vulpis was divorcing his spouse, which he believed would impact NMG’s ability to remain in business. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 23.) Second, Vulpis had hired new guides, and expected revenues would be lower while his new guides gained experience.6 (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 23.) Third, “a chronic, life-threatening auto-immune disease” hospitalized Vulpis shortly before he filed the Application, and he was “not sure [he] would live through” the year, “much less have any revenues in NMG.” (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 23.) Even taking those factors into account, the revenue Vulpis projected on the Application was approximately equal to NMG’s annual revenue two years prior to the Application, and was slightly lower than the average of the revenue for the preceding three years. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 23.) Taking these facts in the light most favorable to NMG, a reasonable fact-finder could determine NMG did not knowingly misrepresent its projected income.
Atain also points to Vulpis’s testimony about how he projected NMG’s revenue by merely “guess[ing] what I thought we might do for the season” and answered “no” when asked if he did any math to figure out the projected revenue. (ECF No. 72-1, at 217:3-12.) Atain argues these answers demonstrate Vulpis did not make a good faith revenue projection. The Court disagrees. When read in context, a reasonable fact-finder could determine Vulpis attempted to accurately project NMG’s revenues. Immediately before testifying he “guessed,” Vulpis testified he “guestimated” the revenue figures, and further testified his projection considered revenues “from previous years of business.” (ECF No. 72-1, at 216:23, 217:13-14.) Combined with his more detailed testimony about how Vulpis considered his divorce, new hires, and his medical condition when projecting revenue on the Application, and viewed in the light most favorable to NMG, genuine issues of material fact exists concerning whether Vulpis failed to make a good faith attempt to project NMG’s revenue.
2. Independent Contractors
Atain argues it is entitled to summary judgment because a second, unrelated misrepresentation on the Application—Vulpis’s statement claiming NMG did not use subcontractors or independent contractors—warrants rescission of the Policy. Pachner7 argues the Court should grant summary judgment against Atain on this ground because NMG accurately represented it did not use independent contractors. Pachner also argues summary judgment is appropriate against any claim Pachner negligently (1) advised Vulpis to answer “no” to the question on the Application asking about NMG’s use of subcontractors or independent contractors or (2) misidentified Manchester as an independent contractor when communicating with Atain. The Court rejects all these arguments because the evidence creates genuine issues of material fact concerning whether NMG (1) knowingly misrepresented its use of independent contractors, and (2) used independent contractors at all.8
i. Knowing Misrepresentation
Distinguishing independent contractors from employees is among the most contentiously litigated issues in courts today, arising in a host of different contexts, each with a different standard.9 The variety of tests creates a “paradoxical truth that even when the same person performs the same acts at the same time in the same place under the same conditions,” the person “may be considered an employee for one purpose and an independent contractor for another.” EEOC v. Zippo Mfg. Co., 713 F.2d 32, 35-36 (3d Cir. 1983) (“paradoxical truth”); Hoag v. Brown, 935 A.2d 1218, 1228 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2007) (“may be considered”).
Given the issue’s complexity, the Court is not surprised Vulpis’s testimony suggests he had genuine difficulty distinguishing between employees and independent contractors. Vulpis’s testimony concerning his thinking at the time demonstrates his confusion. For instance, Vulpis described his guides as “1099 employees,” something of a misnomer.10 (ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 17.) When completing the Application, Vulpis discussed how to answer the “independent contractor” question with Donald Pachner, whose less-than-illuminating explanation was to describe the meaning of independent contractor as a “gray area.” (ECF No. 72-1, at 221:19-222:17.) Even when answering interrogatories in this case—presumably with the assistance of counsel—Vulpis initially described his guides as independent contractors, then amended his answer to strike that characterization. (ECF No. 72, at 19:7-23:20.) The Application does not instruct the applicant on the meaning of “independent contractor,” nor does it suggest which (if any) of the legal tests an applicant should apply—missing an opportunity to dispel Vulpis’s confusion. (ECF No. 70-17, at ATN00034.)
Viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant NMG, a reasonable fact-finder could determine Vulpis merely failed to appreciate every nuance of the difference between employees and independent contractors when he wrote on the Application NMG did not use independent contractors or subcontractors. Such a misunderstanding would constitute an “honest mistake,” not a “lie” or a “willful” falsification. Rutgers, 945 A.2d at 1035; Longobardi, 582 A.2d at 1261. Drawing all inferences in non-movant NMG’s favor, a genuine issue of material fact remains concerning whether Vulpis knowingly misrepresented NMG’s use of independent contractors.
ii. Independent Contractors vs. Employees
While Atain is not entitled to summary judgment on its claim concerning Vulpis’s knowing misrepresentation of his use of independent contractors, neither is Pachner entitled to summary judgment against Atain on the same issue. Pachner argues Vulpis’s representation was accurate because NMG’s guides were not independent contractors. A host of evidence suggests the opposite. For instance, Vulpis deducted over $10,000 for “cost of contract labor” and “subcontractors” on the 2015 federal income tax form (and corresponding worksheet) covering NMG’s profit and loss. (ECF No. 70-19, at sch. C, line 11.11) Manchester testified NMG classified its guides as “subcontractors” in its accounting software. (ECF No. 70-7, at 54:12-20.) Manchester further testified Vulpis repeatedly used the term “independent contractor” to describe guides. (ECF No. 70-7, at 54:23-55:8.) Viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant Atain, this evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether NMG’s guides were in fact independent contractors.
iii. Pachner’s Advice to Vulpis
Pachner also argues summary judgment is appropriate against any claim concerning Pachner’s negligent advice to Vulpis to answer “no” to the question on the Application asking about NMG’s use of subcontractors or independent contractors. However, as Pachner points out, Pachner’s negligence in this instance “is only relevant insofar [as] Atain is seeking to rescind the Policy based on [NMG’s] answer” concerning independent contractors or subcontractors. (ECF No. 73-2, at 19.) Because genuine issues of material fact exist concerning whether Atain may rescind the Policy on the basis of NMG’s use of independent contractors, see part III.C.2.i., supra, the same genuine issues of material fact necessarily exist concerning Pachner’s alleged negligent advice to Vulpis concerning this question. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant summary judgment on this ground.
iv. Pachner’s Misdentification of Manchester as a Contractor
Pachner asks the Court to grant summary judgment on any claim concerning Pachner’s negligent mislabeling of Manchester as an independent contractor when Pachner first reported Manchester’s Injury to Atain. The Court cannot grant summary judgment. As with Pachner’s advice to Vulpis, Pachner’s statement to Atain identifying Manchester as an independent contractor relates only to Atain’s claim for rescission of the Policy for NMG’s misrepresentation of its use of independent contractors. Because genuine issues of material fact exist concerning whether Atain may rescind the Policy on this basis, see part III.C.2.i., supra, the same genuine issues of material fact exist concerning Pachner’s characterization to Atain of Manchester as an independent contractor. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant summary judgment on this ground.
3. Training and Education Relating to “Search and Rescue” Operations
Atain also argues NMG committed a knowing misrepresentation when it failed to disclose its training and education programs concerning search and rescue operations. The Court declines to grant summary judgment on this claim, because Atain did not plead this claim in its complaint.
“Each and every claim for relief that a plaintiff seeks to press must be set forth in the Complaint.” Bravo v. Union Cty., Civ. No. 12-2848, 2013 WL 2285780, at *8 (D.N.J. May 23, 2013). Failure to do so has consequences. One consequence is that this Court may not “grant summary judgment on a claim that was never pleaded.” Day v. White, 764 F. App’x 164, 166 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting Michelson v. Exxon Rsrch. & Eng’g Co., 808 F.2d 1005, 1009 (3d Cir. 1987)). “To the extent the plaintiff discovers new information giving rise to additional claims, the plaintiff must amend the Complaint to assert those claims and properly put the defendant on notice of them.” Bravo, 2013 WL 2285780, at *8; see also Tavarez v. Twp. of Egg Harbor, Civ. No. 09-6119, 2012 WL 13186197, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug. 3, 2012); Durham v. Vekios, Civ. No. 09-5376, 2011 WL 3667560, at *4 (D.N.J. Aug. 22, 2011).
Atain contends it “asserted a cause of action for rescission based upon material misrepresentation” in its complaint, which Atain argues is broad enough to cover any misrepresentation relating to NMG’s training and education programs concerning search and rescue. (ECF No. 93, at 29.) The Court disagrees because Atain’s “Material Misrepresentation” claim—Count Six12—alleges only a material misrepresented concerning NMG’s engagement in “Ropes/Challenge Course Facilitation.” (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 52-59.) Count Six does not mention search and rescue, much less allege a material misrepresentation relating to NMG’s education and training concerning search and rescue operations.
Atain further argues it did not learn of the misrepresentation concerning search and rescue operations until well into the discovery period of this litigation. This fact does not excuse Atain from seeking to amend its complaint. If Atain learned late in the litigation it had an additional claim of which it was previously unaware, its appropriate course was to seek leave to amend its complaint to add the new claim. See Bravo, 2013 WL 2285780, at *8. Atain did not do so. Because Atain’s complaint does not plead any claim related to search and rescue operations, Atain may not obtain summary judgment on this unpleaded claim. See Day, 764 F. App’x at 166.
However, even if Atain did plead this claim, a genuine issue of material fact precludes summary judgment concerning whether NMG knowingly failed to disclose its education and training programs concerning search and rescue operations. The record contains evidence Vulpis and Enberg both believed these activities were no different than NMG’s other activities NMG had already disclosed on NMG’s initial Application. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶¶ 37-42; ECF No. 86-15 ¶¶ 3-6.) Viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant NMG, this evidence13 is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.
4. Ratification of the Policy
Pachner14 argues the Court should grant summary judgment against Atain on its claim for rescission because Atain has ratified the Policy. The Court disagrees because (1) the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure prohibit this Court from construing the allegations in one claim as an admission against an alternative or inconsistent second claim, and (2) the evidence conflicts concerning whether Atain’s actions constitute ratification of the Policy.
i. Ratification by Lawsuit
First, Pachner argues Atain cannot file a lawsuit demanding both to disclaim coverage or, in the alternative, to rescind the Policy. Doing so, Pachner argues, constitutes ratification of the Policy and bars rescission. See Merchants Indem. Corp. v. Eggleston, 179 A.2d 505, 514 (N.J. 1962). Assuming without deciding New Jersey law treats an action to disclaim coverage as a ratification of the Policy and thus prohibits a claim for rescission, Pachner is still not entitled to summary judgment because “[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit parties to file pleadings containing inconsistent factual and legal allegations.” W.V. Realty, Inc. v. N. Ins. Co., 334 F.3d 306, 316 (3d Cir. 2003).
“A party may state as many separate claims or defenses as it has, regardless of consistency.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(3). For instance, a plaintiff may simultaneously plead claims for both breach of contract (which requires the existence of a contract) and unjust enrichment (which requires the non-existence of a contract). See Hughes v. TD Bank, N.A., 856 F. Supp. 2d 673, 680 n.4 (D.N.J. 2012); Dewey v. Volkswagen AG, 558 F. Supp. 2d 505, 528-29 (D.N.J. 2008); cf. Showalter v. Brubaker, 283 F. App’x 33, 36 (3d Cir. 2008) (permitting defendants in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to simultaneously plead both (1) they are entitled to governmental immunity and (2) their actions were wholly private and therefore not under color of state law).
Importantly, this allowance for inconsistent claims “has been interpreted to mean that a court ‘may not construe [a plaintiff’s] first claim as an admission against another alternative or inconsistent claim.'” Indep. Enters. v. Pitt. Water & Sewer Auth., 103 F.3d 1165, 1175 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Henry v. Daytop Village, 42 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 1994)). For instance, a claim for abuse of process does not implicitly concede the legitimacy of a prosecution so as to invalidate a simultaneous claim for malicious prosecution. See Evans v. City of Newark, Civ. No. 14-120, 2016 WL 2742862, at *5 n.7 (D.N.J. May 10, 2016).
Atain’s claims are subject to this rule. Assuming without deciding a claim to disclaim coverage and a claim to rescind the Policy are inconsistent under New Jersey law, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit Atain to make both claims simultaneously. Accordingly, Atain’s claim for disclaimer of coverage does not constitute a ratification of the Policy.
ii. Ratification by Action
Second, Pachner argues Atain’s actions constitute ratification of the contract. Genuine issues of material fact preclude the issuance of summary judgment on this ground.
“[T]he remedy [of rescission] is discretionary and will not be granted where the claimant has not acted within a reasonable time or where there has been substantial performance.” Farris v. Cty. of Camden, 61 F. Supp. 2d 307, 336 (D.N.J. 1999) (quoting Notch View Assocs. v. Smith, 615 A.2d 676, 680 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. 1992)); see also Rowen Petrol. Props., LLC v. Hollywood Tanning Sys., Inc., Civ. No. 08-4764, 2011 WL 6755838, at *10 (D.N.J. Dec. 23, 2011) (same). “[W]here a party ‘is cognizant of fraud or misrepresentation and fails to promptly rescind the . . . agreement or transaction, and instead engages in conduct which assumes the validity of the [agreement], then the agreement or transaction may be deemed ratified.'” Everest Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Sutton, Civ. No. 07-722, 2008 WL 3833586, at *8 (D.N.J. Aug. 13, 2008) (quoting Notch View, 615 A.2d at 685).
Pachner argues Atain received notice of its potential grounds for rescission on or before November 30, 2015, when Atain received an e-mail with a description of the events leading to Manchester’s Injury and a discussion of how Manchester was an “independent contractor” for NMG. (ECF No. 73-43, at Atain 73-75.) Assuming without deciding this e-mail put Atain on notice of its potential grounds for rescission,15 the evidence of ratification following this date is mixed, precluding summary judgment.
For instance, Atain issued a “Notice of Conditional Renewal” to NMG on January 6, 2016, “to advise that [Atain is] agreeable to renewing this policy subject to” new terms and conditions and a rate increase. (ECF No. 73-45, at 1.) This explicit statement suggests Atain treated the Policy as valid. However, this evidence of ratification is tempered by testimony from Atain’s former director of director of underwriting for recreational programs, Grace Cunningham, who noted Atain issued the conditional renewal “until [Atain] received more information about the claim.” (ECF No. 73-16, at 270:10-11.) Cunningham also testified, “We rescinded this,” after Atain learned more. (ECF No. 73-16, at 270:16-19.)
Other evidence is also ambiguous. Although, Atain appears to have kept the Policy premium16 rather than refund it to NMG, the normal course of rescission litigation appears to allow an insurer to maintain the premium while litigation is pending, and to refund the policy-holder after the litigation is successful. See, e.g., Liebling v. Garden State Indem., 767 A.2d 515, 465 n.1 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001). Additionally, Atain negotiated an explicit agreement with Vulpis, Enberg, and NMG to allow Atain to follow this procedure. (ECF No. 70-13, at ATN000051, ATN000068.) Under these circumstances, the Court cannot say Atain’s retention of the Policy premium necessarily demonstrates Atain ratified the Policy.
The record also contains contrary evidence suggesting Atain did not act to ratify the Policy, but instead acted with diligence concerning the possibility of rescinding the Policy. For example, Atain wrote a letter to NMG on February 23, 2016, in which it sought to reserve its right to rescind the Policy. (ECF No. 73-44, at 2.) Likewise, Atain negotiated and, on August 8, 2016, executed non-waiver agreements with Vulpis, Enberg, and NMG to protect Atain’s right to seek rescission of the Policy. (ECF No. 70-13, at ATN000049-53, ATN000066-70.) And, of course, Atain filed this action on August 23, 2016. (ECF No. 1, at 21.) Pachner points to deficiencies in Atain’s reservation-of-rights letter, but no matter the deficiencies, the letter, non-wavier agreement, and declaratory judgment action are not the acts of a company taking action to ratify the Policy. Cf. Annito v. Trump Marina Hotel Casino, No. L-5622-02, 2005 WL 4344137, at *8 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. July 25, 2006) (“By paying his casino debts when he was sober, plaintiff ratified his prior promises to repay the loans, even if they were made while he was intoxicated and not competent to contract.”).
However, the most important evidence is missing. Pachner’s critical argument is Atain ratified the Policy by failing to act promptly after learning of the potential grounds for rescission as a result of the November 30, 2015 e-mail. (ECF No. 73-43, at Atain 73-75.) Pachner does not point to any evidence—other than the mere passage of time—showing Atain failed to follow-up on the e-mail or to investigate the potential grounds for rescission the e-mail raised. Coupled with the ambiguous or contrary evidence above, a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether Atain ratified the Policy. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant summary judgment against Atain on its claim for rescission.
D. Failure to Maintain Signed Liability Waivers
Atain’s final argument is NMG’s failure to comply with a coverage condition—namely, obtaining a signed waiver and release of liability from all participants in NMG’s activities, and maintaining the signed document for three years—relieves Atain from its obligation to cover NMG’s exposure to Manchester’s underlying litigation. The Court rejects this argument because a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether the loss of Manchester’s waiver form appreciably prejudices Atain’s defense of Manchester’s underlying state court litigation.
New Jersey law permits an insurer to escape liability for its obligations under an insurance policy if the insured breaches a condition of coverage, but only if the insurance carrier suffers appreciable prejudice from the breach. See, e.g., Gazis v. Miller, 847 A.2d 591, 595 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2005). When determining the existence of appreciable prejudice, a court must consider two factors. “[F]irst, ‘whether substantial rights have been irretrievably lost’ as a result of the insured’s breach, and second, ‘the likelihood of success of the insurer in defending against the accident victim’s claim’ had there been no breach.” Hager v. Gonsalves, 942 A.2d 160, 164 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008) (quoting Sagendorf v. Selective Ins. Co. of Am., 679 A.2d 709, 715 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1996)); see also Ohaus v. Continental Cas. Ins. Co., 679 A.2d 179, 185 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1996).
The insurer bears the burden of demonstrating appreciable prejudice. See, e.g., Kenny v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co., 746 A.2d 57, 59 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2000). The existence of appreciable prejudice is generally a question for the finder-of-fact, and generally not appropriate for summary judgment. See, e.g., State Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Cty. of Camden, 10 F. Supp. 3d 568, 582-83 (D.N.J. 2014).
A genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether the loss of Manchester’s misplaced waiver form will appreciably prejudice Atain. First, the record is not clear whether Manchester’s waiver form—and therefore, Atain’s ability to defend the underlying state court litigation using Manchester’s waiver—has been “irretrievably lost.” Hager, 942 A.2d at 164. Although NMG cannot locate the waiver at present, Atain points to no evidence NMG will be unable to locate the waiver in the future. In fact, NMG indicates it will willing to allow opposing counsel access to its physical files to conduct its own search for Manchester’s missing waiver. (ECF No. 86-2 ¶ 5.) Atain does not indicate it has accepted NMG’s offer.
Second, even if Atain cannot obtain Manchester’s waiver in time to rely on the waiver against Manchester in the underlying state court litigation, the absence of Manchester’s waiver will not necessarily reduce “the likelihood of success of the insurer in defending against the accident victim’s claim.” Hager, 942 A.2d at 164. NMG has provided Atain with Manchester’s signed acknowledgment of receipt (ECF No. 86-4, at 1) of NMG’s employee handbook, which contains a waiver form (ECF No. 86-3, at 22-24). Moreover, while Vulpis acknowledged he could not locate the forms, Vulpis testified Manchester had previously signed a waiver (1) when Manchester initially became was a customer of NMG prior to serving as a guide, and (2) for the year 2015, when Manchester served as a guide. (ECF No. 72, at 55:13-56:3, 87:1-6.) The only contrary evidence is Manchester did not sign a waiver on the day of the Injury. (ECF No. 72, at 99:18-100:4; ECF No. 70-8, at 161:23-162:1.) Atain points to no evidence contradicting Vulpis’s testimony concerning Manchester previously signing a waiver before the day of the Injury. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to NMG, a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether NMG’s loss of Manchester’s waiver will appreciably prejudice Atain’s defense of Manchester’s underlying state court litigation.
E. Pachner’s Insurance Producer Licenses
Pachner argues it is entitled to summary judgment on any negligence claim relating to Pachner’s failure to maintain insurance producer licenses. No party opposes Pachner’s argument. Assuming without deciding Pachner owes a duty to its clients or third parties to maintain appropriate licenses as an insurance producer, the uncontested evidence demonstrates Pachner in fact possessed the requisite licenses at the time he assisted NMG with its search for insurance coverage. (ECF No. 73-31, at 1-2.) Therefore, there is no genuine dispute of material fact concerning Pachner’s licensure, and Pachner is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
F. Pachner’s Explanation of the Policy to NMG
Pachner argues the Court should grant summary judgment against NMG’s claims relating to Pachner’s failure to explain mountaineering-related terms in the Policy or the Application. The Court declines to grant summary judgment because a genuine issue of material fact remains concerning whether Pachner fulfilled his obligations to NMG as a broker.17
An insurance broker’s obligations are “(1) to procure the insurance; (2) to secure a policy that is neither void nor materially deficient; and (3) to provide the coverage he or she undertook to supply.” President v. Jenkins, 853 A.2d 247, 569 (N.J. 2004). “[A]n insurance broker owes a duty to his principal to exercise diligence in obtaining coverage in the area his principal seeks to be protected.” Satec, Inc. v. Hanover Ins. Grp., 162 A.3d 311, 317 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2017) (quoting Werrmann v. Aratusa, Ltd., 630 A.2d 302, 304 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993)). A broker’s failure to inform a client about critical facts related to the client’s pursuit of insurance can constitute a breach of the broker’s duty. See Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 666 A.2d 146, 157 (N.J. 1995).
1. Subjective vs. Objective Understanding of Policy Terms
Pachner is not entitled to summary judgment concerning whether Pachner failed to explain certain mountaineering-related terms. The report of NMG’s expert Frank Seigel explains Pachner breached an insurance broker’s duty because Pachner “should have been familiar with how Atain handled and considered ‘mountaineering’ and ‘guided mountaineering’ and whether or not those terms, in Atain’s eyes, included the assembly and use of a Tyrolean Traverse.” (ECF No. 80-4, at 13.) Pachner argues Atain’s subjective understanding of these contested terms is irrelevant because of “the general rule that the terms in an insurance policy should be interpreted in accordance with their plain and commonly-understood meaning,” not the subjective meaning of the insurer. Cypress Point Condo. Ass’n v. Adria Towers, LLC, 143 A.3d 273, 286 (N.J. 2016).
This argument does not entitle Pachner to summary judgment. Pachner is correct that courts must “first consider the plain meaning of the language at issue.” N.J. Transit Corp. v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, ___ A.3d ___, 2019 WL 6109144, at *4 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Nov. 18, 2019). But the plain language analysis is only one part of the approach to the interpretation of insurance contracts. Courts’ “goal in interpreting [insurance] policies is to ‘discover the intention of the parties[,]’ by considering ‘the contractual terms, the surrounding circumstances, and the purpose of the contract.'” Id. at *5 (quoting Marchak v. Claridge Commons, Inc., 633 A.2d 531 (1993). Atain’s subjective understanding of these terms is relevant to “discover[ing] the intention of the parties.” Id.
2. Vulpis’s Reliance on Pachner’s Information
Pachner also argues none of the Pachner entities breached any duty to inform NMG about relevant Policy terms because Vulpis testified he did not rely on Pachner for information about these terms. Vulpis’s testimony does not entitle Pachner to summary judgment because Vulpis could not have relied on Pachner for information Pachner did not provide, but should have. Cf. Brill, 666 A.2d at 157.
3. Vulpis’s Greater Level of Expertise Compared to Pachner
Pachner further argues Vulpis, as an expert in the mountaineering field, had greater familiarity than Pachner with terms like “mountaineering” and equipment like a “Tyrolean Traverse.” Therefore, Pachner argues, NMG had no need for any explanation from an individual like Pachner with a lesser level of expertise than Vulpis. The Court cannot grant summary judgment on this ground. The fact an insured possesses greater knowledge and expertise in a field than the insured’s broker does not relieve the broker from “exercis[ing] diligence in obtaining coverage in the area his principal seeks to be protected.” Satec, 162 A.3d at 317.
4. Pachner’s and Vulpis’s Awareness of NMG’s Activities
Pachner next points out Vulpis informed Pachner NMG engaged in “mountaineering” activities and requested insurance for those activities (ECF No. 70-17, at ATN000336), but Vulpis never alerted Pachner that NMG engaged in the Activity. Pachner asks this Court for summary judgment because, the argument goes, Pachner could not reasonably have been expected to procure coverage for an Activity of which it had no knowledge. Pachner also argues summary judgment is appropriate because Vulpis was aware the Policy did not cover the Activity because the Activity was not a “mountaineering” activity. The same genuine issue of material fact—namely, the conflicting evidence concerning whether the Activity qualified as a “mountaineering” activity (ECF No. 72-1, at 253:19-24; ECF No. 70-20, at 18:8-13; ECF No. 70-8, at 20:20-21:4)—precludes the entry of summary judgment on both grounds.
G. Pachner’s Failure to Recommend Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Pachner asks the Court to grant summary judgment on NMG’s claim related to Pachner’s failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance, as required by law. The Court cannot grant summary on this basis because genuine issues of material fact exist concerning whether (1) Pachner attempted to procure workers’ compensation insurance for NMG and (2) workers’ compensation insurance would have protected either NMG or Manchester.
An insurance broker’s obligations are “(1) to procure the insurance; (2) to secure a policy that is neither void nor materially deficient; and (3) to provide the coverage he or she undertook to supply.” President v. Jenkins, 853 A.2d 247, 569 (N.J. 2004). “[A]n insurance broker owes a duty to his principal to exercise diligence in obtaining coverage in the area his principal seeks to be protected.” Satec, Inc. v. Hanover Ins. Grp., 162 A.3d 311, 317 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2017) (quoting Werrmann v. Aratusa, Ltd., 630 A.2d 302, 304 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1993)). When a client retains a broker to procure insurance, the broker must procure legally mandated workers’ compensation insurance. See Schustrin v. Globe Indem. Co. of N.Y., 130 A.2d 897, 898 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1957) (noting the jury’s finding that broker was obligated to procure workers’ compensation insurance for client).
Pachner argues a broker owes no duty to recommend additional coverage for a client. This argument does not affect the Court’s analysis. Pachner correctly points out New Jersey law imposes “no duty [on an insurance broker] to advise an insured to consider higher amounts of homeowner’s insurance.” Carter Lincoln-Mercury, Inc., Leasing Div. v. EMAR Grp., 638 A.2d 1288, 1292 (N.J. 1994) (citing Wang v. Allstate Ins. Co., 592 A.2d 527, 532-33 (N.J. 1991)). Assuming without deciding this principle extends to workers’ compensation, the principle still does not apply here. NMG does not claim Pachner failed to advise NMG to consider the option of purchasing higher policy limits. Instead, the case concerns an alleged failure by a broker to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for a client who was legally mandated to obtain such insurance. (ECF No. 80-4, at 13-14.) Were the Court to adopt Pachner’s argument, then NMG would possess a legal obligation to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, see N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-71 (requiring employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance), but NMG’s insurance broker Pachner would have no legal obligation to procure the insurance for NMG. This is not the law in New Jersey. See Schustrin, 130 A.2d at 898.
The delineation of a broker’s duties does not end the Court’s inquiry, because a plaintiff must show more than the failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance before liability will attach. “To succeed in an action against an insurance broker, the plaintiff must prove that in addition to being negligent, the broker’s negligence was a proximate cause of the loss.” Harbor Commuter Serv., Inc. v. Frenkel & Co., 951 A.2d 198, 207 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008). Put another way, the plaintiff must “establish that its loss would not have occurred but for defendants’ negligence, or that defendants’ negligence constituted a substantial contributing factor to the loss.” Id.
Two genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment. First, the record contains conflicting evidence concerning whether Pachner in fact attempted to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for NMG. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶¶ 4-5; ECF No. 73-10, at 6; ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 18.) Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to non-movants NMG and Manchester while making all reasonable inferences in their favor, a reasonable jury could find Pachner did not attempt to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for NMG.
The second genuine issue of material fact concerns whether (1) Pachner’s failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance for NMG either contributed to NMG’s and Manchester’s loss or (2) their loss would not have occurred had NMG purchased workers’ compensation insurance. As discussed earlier, genuine issues of material fact remain concerning whether Manchester qualified as an employee or an independent contractor. See part III.B., supra. Given this uncertainty, the record does not conclusively demonstrate whether or not workers’ compensation insurance would have covered Manchester’s Injury. Viewing this uncertainty in the light most favorable to non-movants NMG and Manchester while making all reasonable inferences in their favor, a reasonable jury could find Pachner’s failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance for NMG either contributed to NMG’s and Manchester’s loss, or their loss would not have occurred but for Pachner’s failure. In light of the two genuine issues of material fact, the Court cannot grant summary judgment against NMG’s and Manchester’s claims related to Pachner’s failure to procure workers’ compensation insurance for NMG.
H. Pachner’s Failure to Provide a Copy of the Policy
Pachner requests summary judgment on any claim it negligently failed to provide NMG with a copy of the Policy. The Court cannot grant summary judgment in light of the conflicting evidence.
An insurance broker has a duty to provide its client with any policy it receives from the insurer within 10 days of receipt by the broker. See N.J. Admin Code § 11:17A-4.6. According to Pachner, when “Pachner & Associates received a copy of the Policy, we made it available to NMG through our web portal.” (ECF No. 73-3 ¶ 13.) Vulpis testified that he never received the Policy until after Manchester’s Injury. (ECF No. 72, at 112:16-25.) In light of the conflicting evidence, a genuine issue of material fact precludes summary judgment.
Pachner argues even if Pachner did not provide Vulpis with a copy of the Policy, Pachner’s failure did not proximately cause any of NMG’s damages because Vulpis received a copy of the Quote. (ECF No. 72-1, at 233:21-236:8.) A genuine issue of material fact also precludes summary judgment on this basis. “To succeed in an action against an insurance broker, the plaintiff must prove that in addition to being negligent, the broker’s negligence was a proximate cause of the loss.” Harbor Commuter Serv., Inc. v. Frenkel & Co., 951 A.2d 198, 207 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008). Put another way, the plaintiff must “establish that its loss would not have occurred but for defendants’ negligence, or that defendants’ negligence constituted a substantial contributing factor to the loss.” Id.
A genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether Pachner’s failure to provide the Policy to NMG substantially contributed to NMG’s loss by depriving Vulpis of important Policy details that would have prompted Vulpis to make inquiries about, and adjustments to, NMG’s insurance. The Policy contains substantially more details about coverage than the Quote. For instance, while the Quote merely mentions the insurance “Excludes Injury to Employees, Leased Workers, Volunteers, and Independent Contractors,” the Policy actually defines several of these terms. (ECF No. 73-37, at 2; ECF No. 70-5, at ATN000373-76.) Unlike the Quote, the Policy spells out the exact terms of the exclusion for injury to employees or independent contractors. (ECF No. 70-5, at ATN000383.) Making all reasonable inferences in favor of non-movant NMG, a reasonable jury could find Vulpis would use the more detailed information in the Policy to inquire about his insurance and adjust it so as to explicitly cover incidents like the one in which Manchester suffered an Injury. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant summary judgment.
I. Pachner’s Duty to Manchester
Pachner asks this Court to grant summary judgment against Manchester because New Jersey law precludes Manchester from bringing an action against Pachner until Manchester obtains a judgment against NMG and the judgment is returned unsatisfied.18 The Court disagrees because Manchester is a foreseeable injured third-party to whom Pachner, a broker, owes a duty. See Carter Lincoln-Mercury, Inc., Leasing Div. v. EMAR Grp., 638 A.2d 1288, 1297-98 (N.J. 1994).
“[A]n insurance broker may owe a duty of care not only to the insured who pays the premium and with whom the broker contracts but to other parties found within the zone of harm emanating from the broker’s actions as well.” Id. at 1297. When a broker negligently fails to procure insurance that would cover the injuries of a third-party, the broker owes a duty to the third-party, making the third-party an appropriate plaintiff in a negligence action against the broker. See Impex Ag. Commodities Div. Impex Overseas Corp. v. Parness Trucking Corp., 576 F. Supp. 587, 591 (D.N.J. 1983) (applying New Jersey law). Pachner, as a broker, owes a duty to procure appropriate insurance not just to NMG, but also to Manchester—a foreseeable, injured third-party whose Injury NMG expected the Policy to cover. Because Pachner owes Manchester a duty, Manchester is therefore an appropriate plaintiff in a negligence action. Accordingly, summary judgment against Manchester on this basis is inappropriate. Pachner argues New Jersey is not a direct action state, meaning an injured third party may not bring an action directly against a tortfeasor’s insurance company in lieu of the tortfeasor. See Manukas v. Am. Ins. Co., 237 A.2d 898, 524 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1968). But Pachner is not an insurance company against whom Manchester brings an action in lieu of the tortfeasor. Rather, Pachner is the tortfeasor. Manchester brings a negligence action against Pachner for Pachner’s negligent failure to obtain appropriate insurance for NMG that would cover Manchester’s Injury. Manchester does not bring an action against Pachner in the capacity of an insurer. Therefore, Pachner’s “direct action” argument is inapposite.
Pachner further argues New Jersey law imposes a bar against direct actions such as this one until the plaintiff obtains a judgment against the tortfeasor and is unable to execute on the judgment. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 17:28-2. This argument does not entitle Pachner to summary judgment against Manchester for two reasons. First, as previously explained, Manchester has not brought a direct action against an insurer, because Pachner is the tortfeasor, not the tortfeasor’s insurer. Second, the statute’s language merely imposes a requirement on insurance contracts; it does not limit the circumstances under which a plaintiff may bring a tort action. See id. (“No policy of insurance . . . shall be issued or delivered in this state by any insurer authorized to do business in this state, unless [the policy allows the plaintiff to recover directly against the insurer if the tortfeasor is insolvent.]”). Because Manchester is not bringing an action for breach of an insurance contract, the statute has no application here.
Finally, Pachner argues Manchester cannot bring an action against Pachner until it has obtained a judgment against NMG. See Estate of Atanasoski v. Arcuri Agency, Inc., No. A-2291-17T4, 2019 WL 1986539, at *3-6 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 6, 2019). Because an action by Manchester against NMG concerning Manchester’s Injury is pending in state court, the appropriate course for this Court would not be to grant summary judgment against Manchester (which would permanently extinguish Manchester’s right to recover against Pachner), but to await the outcome of the state court case before issuing any final judgment against Pachner in favor of Manchester.
J. Action Against Pachner Risk Management
Pachner argues, and the Court agrees, summary judgment is appropriate against Pachner Risk Management (“PRM”) because PRM had no relationship with Manchester, Enberg, Vulpis, or NMG, nor was PRM involved in procuring insurance for NMG. No party contests this argument, and the evidence supports it. Donald Pachner testified PRM has always been an inactive company and further testified PRM has never had anything to do with NMG. (ECF No. 73-11, at 126:14-127:5.) When asked whether “there was anything you came across that suggested [PRM] owed or breached any duty to [NMG],” NMG’s expert Frank Seigel testified he did not recall any reference to PRM in the file he reviewed. (ECF No. 73-15, at 180:8-23.) Because the undisputed evidence shows PRM had no connection to NMG, Vulpis, or the other parties in this case, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of PRM.
K. Donald Pachner as Agent of His Disclosed Principal, Pachner & Associates
Pachner argues the Court should grant summary judgment in favor of Donald Pachner because he cannot be liable for the torts of his disclosed principal Pachner & Associates if Donald Pachner was merely serving as the agent of Pachner & Associates. See City of Millville v. Rock, 683 F. Supp. 2d 319, 326-28 (D.N.J. 2010). In light of New Jersey’s “participation theory” of principal-agent tort liability, the court disagrees.
Under New Jersey law, the “long-standing rule [is] that ‘[a]n agent who does an act otherwise a tort is not relieved from liability by the fact that he acted at the command of a principal or on account of the principal.'” Ballinger v. Del. River Port Auth., 800 A.2d 97, 110 (N.J. 2002) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Agency § 343 (1958)). New Jersey law refers to this as the “participation theory” of principal-agent tort liability.
[T]he essence of the participation theory is that a corporate officer can be held personally liable for a tort committed by the corporation when he or she is sufficiently involved in the commission of the tort. A predicate to liability is a finding that the corporation owed a duty of care to the victim, the duty was delegated to the officer and the officer breached the duty of care by his own conduct.
Saltiel v. GSI Consults., Inc., 788 A.2d 268, 272 (N.J. 2002); see also Reliance Ins. Co. v. The Lott Grp., 776-77 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2004).
As the sole member of Pachner & Associates who served as the primary individual responsible for dealing with NMG during NMG’s effort to insure its activities, Donald Pachner meets these requirements. (ECF No. 73-3 ¶ 1; ECF No. 86-14 ¶ 16.) Accordingly, the Court may not grant summary judgment on this ground.
For the reasons set forth above, Atain’s motion is DENIED and Pachner’s motion is GRANTED IN PART in favor of PRM on all claims and in favor of all Pachner parties on any claims relating to Pachner’s negligent failure to maintain appropriate licensure and DENIED IN PART in all other respects. An appropriate order will follow.
/s/ Brian R. Martinotti
HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: January 30, 2020
2. Pachner also argues the Activity could not be “guided” as the Policy uses the term unless Vulpis or Enberg met the definition of “guide” in NMG’s Guide Handbook—”specially trained and experienced mountaineers, climbers, instructors, and outdoor professionals for hire.” (ECF No. 73-35, at 7.) The Court rejects this argument—which Pachner raises for the first time in a reply brief—because “arguments raised for first time in [a] reply brief will not be considered.” Washington v. Doran, 717 F. App’x 151, 155 (3d Cir. 2017).
Were the Court to consider Pachner’s argument on its merits, the argument would fail. First, Pachner offers no evidence the parties intended the Guide Handbook’s definition of “guide” to govern the Policy’s coverage for “guided” activities, nor any evidence the parties even considered the Guide Handbook’s definition at the time Atain issued the Policy. Second, even if the Guide Handbook’s definition did govern the Policy’s coverage for “guided” activities, Vulpis and Enberg meet the definition. Both Vulpis and Enberg possess special training, and were available for hire. (ECF No. 86-14 ¶¶ 4-7; ECF No. 86-15 ¶¶ 2-3.) The Guide Handbook’s definition does not require Manchester in fact have hired Vulpis or Enberg to guide Manchester on the day of the incident.
4. Because a genuine issue of material fact exists concerning whether NMG knowingly misrepresented its projected revenue, the Court need not decide (1) whether NMG’s projected revenue was material to the particular risk assumed by the Atain, nor (2) whether Atain’s remedy is limited to a retroactive increase in the Policy premium.
5. The Court declines to consider two of Atain’s arguments concerning whether NMG knowingly misrepresented its projected revenues. First, Atain argues—for the first time in its reply brief (ECF No. 93, at 25)—Vulpis improperly projected zero revenue from NMG’s Professional Services Division, which NMG had created shortly before applying for Atain’s insurance. Second, Atain argues—again, for the first time in its reply brief (ECF No. 93, at 25-26)—even if NMG’s revenue figures were reasonable at the time of the Application, NMG’s failure to update the figures as circumstances changed constitutes a knowing misrepresentation. The Court will not consider either argument because an argument raised for the first time in a reply brief is waived. See Haberle v. Borough of Nazareth, 936 F.3d 138, 141 n.3 (3d Cir. 2019).
Were the Court to consider Atain’s arguments on their merits, neither argument would prevail. With regard to revenue from NMG’s newly created Professional Services Division, the Court notes, “[m]ost new businesses fail. Pretty much all studies agree on that.” Thomas J. McIntyre, Note, Discriminatory Opportunism: Why Undertaking Self-Employment to Mitigate Damages Creates Unique Challenges, 45 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 549, 550 n.11 (2012) (quoting Scott A. Shane, The Illusions of Entrepreneurship 98 (2008)). That Vulpis projected no revenue from NMG’s new venture is unsurprising. In conjunction with the other evidence and viewed in the light most favorable to non-movant NMG, a reasonable fact-finder could still determine Vulpis did not knowingly misrepresent NMG’s projected revenue. With regard to NMG’s failure to update its revenue figures as its circumstances changed, the evidence viewed in a light most favorable to NMG does not rule out the possibility NMG’s failure to update its Application was a “mere oversight or honest mistake.” Rutgers, 945 A.2d at 1035 (quoting Longobardi, 582 A.2d at 1261).
6. Atain argues the existence of new hires indicates NMG’s business was growing, and is reason to expect a good faith estimate of NMG’s revenues would have been higher. While Atain’s argument is one permissible inference concerning this piece of evidence, the Court must draw all inferences concerning the new hires in favor of non-movant NMG.
8. Because these two genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment on these issues for both Atain and Pachner, the Court need not decide (1) whether principles of preclusion or estoppel require the Court to treat the guides as independent contractors for purposes of this litigation, nor (2) whether NMG’s representation concerning subcontractors and independent contractors was material to the particular risk assumed by Atain.
9. In the copyright context, a work is “made for hire” if the work’s author or creator is an “employee” under a non-exhaustive thirteen-factor test derived from the common law of agency. See Cmty. for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid (“CCNV”), 490 U.S. 730, 751 (1989). The Fair Labor Standards Act regulates the wages of individuals who meet a six-factor, totality-of-the-circumstances test focusing on the “economic reality” of the employer-employee relationship. See Verma v. 3001 Castor, Inc., 937 F.3d 221, 229-30 (3d Cir. 2019). The Americans with Disabilities Act covers businesses with a minimum number of “employees” as determined by a different six-factor, totality-of-the-circumstances test, focusing on the employer’s right to control the employee. See Clackamas Gastroenterology Assocs. v. Wells, 538 U.S. 440, 449-50 (2003). New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act protects a person from retaliation against whistle-blowing if the person is an “employee” under the totality of the circumstances after analyzing a three-consideration, twelve-factor test analyzing both the employer’s right to control the employee and the economic realities of the employer-employee relationship. See D’Annunzio v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 927 A.2d 113, 120-22 (N.J. 2007). When distinguishing employees from independent contractors in the context of federal employment taxes, the U.S. Tax Court, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Court of Federal Claims each use a different test. The Tax Court considers seven factors while the IRS considers twenty, and the Court of Federal Claims adopts the Reid test from copyright law. See Ewens & Miller, Inc. v. Comm’r, 117 T.C. 263, 270 (2001); Consol. Flooring Servs. v. United States, 38 Fed. Cl. 450, 455 (1997) (quoting CCNV, 490 U.S. at 751-52); Rev. Rul. 87-41, 1987-1 C.B. 296, 298-299). This is not an exhaustive list.
10. A business uses IRS Form W-2 to report payments to an employee, but uses IRS Form 1099 to report payments to a non-employee independent contractor. See Hopkins v. Duckett, Civ. No. 02-5589, 2006 WL 3373784, at *4 & n.2 (D.N.J. Nov. 21, 2006).
11. The Court reminds the parties of their obligation to redact social security numbers and tax identification numbers from filings, including copies of tax returns attached as exhibits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.2(a). The parties shall coordinate with the assigned magistrate judge to bring all non-compliant filings into compliance with this rule.
12. Atain does not contend Count Seven, a claim under the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 17:33A-1 et seq., covers the claim for misrepresentation concerning the training and education programs for search and rescue operations. (ECF No. 93, at 28-33.)
13. The Court rejects Atain’s argument asking the Court to disregard Vulpis’s and Enberg’s declarations as “conclusory, self-serving affidavits . . . insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Gonzalez v. Sec’y of Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 678 F.3d 254, 263 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Kirleis v. Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C., 560 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir. 2009)). Vulpis’s and Enberg’s declarations “detail the specific circumstances” surrounding NMG’s education and training programs concerning search and rescue operations, rendering the declarations far from conclusory. Kirleis, 560 F.3d at 161. Notwithstanding any arguable inconsistencies with his deposition testimony, Enberg’s declaration is not so unbelievable that “the [C]ourt, based on all of the evidence, can say with confidence that a rational trier of fact could not credit” Enberg’s declaration. United States v. 717 S. Woodward Street, 2 F.3d 529, 534 (3d Cir. 1993). Both Vulpis’s and Enberg’s declarations (like all declarations) are self-serving, but this is no reason to disregard them entirely. See Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203, 209 (3d Cir. 2018). Accordingly, the Court must consider Vulpis’s and Enberg’s testimony, and their testimony creates a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment.
16. The record is ambiguous on this point. When asked whether, after Manchester’s Injury, Atain retained NMG’s Policy premiums or returned them to NMG, Atain’s representative testified, “I don’t believe so. I don’t know for sure. I can’t verify.” (ECF No. 73-18, at 149:14-15.) For the purpose of Pachner’s motion, the Court assumes Atain did not refund the Policy premium to NMG in light of Atain’s argument claiming Atain may retain the premium without forfeiting Atain’s right to rescission. (ECF No. 85, at 13-14.)
17. As part of its argument, Pachner contends the testimony of Grace Cunningham is irrelevant because Cunningham was not designated as Atain’s organizational representative under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) and because she did not work at Atain at the time of her deposition. Accordingly, Pachner argues, the Court should disregard not only Cunningham’s testimony but other evidence relying on Cunningham’s testimony. The Court disagrees. Cunningham’s testimony is relevant to this case and the Court will consider it.
A person need not be an organizational representative under Rule 30(b)(6) nor still employed with a defendant to provide relevant testimony. Cf. Lacey v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 932 F.3d 170, 183 (3d Cir. 1991) (observing “many potentially relevant witnesses may no longer be employed by” a defendant company). Testimony is relevant to the extent “(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without [her testimony]; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining [this] action.” Fed. R. Evid. 401.
Pachner does not argue any particular item of Cunningham’s testimony fails to meet this definition. Instead, Pachner argues only the Court should wholesale disregard Cunningham’s entire testimony because none of it can be relevant if Atain no longer employs Cunningham. The Court cannot agree. As the director of underwriting for recreational programs at Atain when NMG contracted with Atain under the Policy, Cunningham was personally involved with Atain’s issuance of the Policy to NMG. (ECF No. 70-20, at 12:22-13:6, 32:19-23.) Given her position and personal involvement, the Court cannot say her testimony is entirely irrelevant. Accordingly, the Court considers both Cunningham’s testimony and other evidence relying on her testimony.
18. Pachner characterizes this argument by saying Manchester lacks “standing” to sue Pachner. (ECF No. 73-2, at 25-26; ECF No. 92, at 4-5.) The Court declines to adopt this phrasing, to avoid confusion with the doctrine of justiciability under Article III of the Constitution. See, e.g., Gill v. Whitford, 138 S. Ct. 1916, 1929 (2018). Pachner’s underlying argument concerns whether Manchester is an appropriate plaintiff—which, in a negligence action like this, is best analyzed in terms of whether Pachner owes a duty to Manchester.
State Law prohibits releases for employees if they are covered by Worker’s Compensation.
Prior to the creation of Worker’s Compensation, if an employee was injured at work he had to sue his employer and prove the employer was negligent to recover for his injuries. This created problems for both parties. Injured employees went bankrupt attempting to win a suit and employers injured employees rather than keeping workplaces safe. It was cheaper to fight a lawsuit then make a workplace safe.
With the creation of worker’s compensation the employers and employees both gave up and received benefits. Basically, in return for not suing the employer the employee receives medical care and some of their lost wages.
An employee gives up the right to sue the employer if they accept worker’s compensation benefits. The employer is required to carry worker’s compensation on employees or they can suffer fines or damages levied by the state or if sued by the employee additional damages over what are owed.
Colorado Statutes state that if you accept worker’s compensation you give up other rights to sue.
C.R.S. §§ 8-41-104. Acceptance as surrender of other remedies
An election under the provisions of section 8-40-302 (5) and in compliance with the provisions of articles 40 to 47 of this title, including the provisions for insurance, shall be construed to be a surrender by the employer, such employer’s insurance carrier, and the employee of their rights to any method, form, or amount of compensation or determination thereof or to any cause of action, action at law, suit in equity, or statutory or common-law right, remedy, or proceeding for or on account of such personal injuries or death of such employee other than as provided in said articles, and shall be an acceptance of all the provisions of said articles, and shall bind the employee personally, and, for compensation for such employee’s death, the employee’s personal representatives, surviving spouse, and next of kin, as well as the employer, such employer’s insurance carrier, and those conducting their business during bankruptcy or insolvency.
Georgia Statutes state:
O.C.G.A. § 34-9-11 (2013)
§ 34-9-11. Exclusivity of rights and remedies granted to employee under chapter; immunity granted to construction design professionals
(a) The rights and the remedies granted to an employee by this chapter shall exclude all other rights and remedies of such employee, his personal representative, parents, dependents, or next of kin, at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service, or death; provided, however, that no employee shall be deprived of any right to bring an action against any third-party tortfeasor, other than an employee of the same employer or any person who, pursuant to a contract or agreement with an employer, provides workers’ compensation benefits to an injured employee, notwithstanding the fact that no common-law master-servant relationship or contract of employment exists between the injured employee and the person providing the benefits, and other than a construction design professional who is retained to perform professional services on or in conjunction with a construction project on which the employee was working when injured, or any employee of a construction design professional who is assisting in the performance of professional services on the construction site on which the employee was working when injured, unless the construction design professional specifically assumes by written contract the safety practices for the project. The immunity provided by this subsection to a construction design professional shall not apply to the negligent preparation of design plans and specifications, nor shall it apply to the tortious activities of the construction design professional or the employees of the construction design professional while on the construction site where the employee was injured and where those activities are the proximate cause of the injury to the employee or to any professional surveys specifically set forth in the contract or any intentional misconduct committed by the construction design professional or his employees.
(b) As used in subsection (a) of this Code section, the term “construction design professional” means any person who is an architect, professional engineer, landscape architect, geologist, or land surveyor who has been issued a license pursuant to Chapter 4, 15, 19, or 23 of Title 43 or any corporation organized to render professional services in Georgia through the practice of one or more such technical professions as architecture, professional engineering, landscape architecture, geology, or land surveying.
(c) The immunity provided by this subsection shall apply and extend to the businesses using the services of a temporary help contracting firm, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-46, or an employee leasing company, as such term is defined in Code Section 34-8-32, when the benefits required by this chapter are provided by either the temporary help contracting firm or the employee leasing company or the business using the services of either such firm or company. A temporary help contracting firm or an employee leasing company shall be deemed to be a statutory employer for the purposes of this chapter.
Illinois law states:
§ 820 ILCS 310/5. (Text of Section WITH the changes made by P.A. 89-7, which has been held unconstitutional) [Exclusive remedy against employer; third party liability]
Sec. 5. (a) There is no common law or statutory right to recover compensation or damages from the employer, his insurer, his broker, any service organization retained by the employer, his insurer or his broker to provide safety service, advice or recommendations for the employer or the agents or employees of any of them for or on account of any injury to health, disease, or death therefrom, other than for the compensation herein provided or for damages as provided in Section 3 of this Act [820 ILCS 310/3]. This Section shall not affect any right to compensation under the “Workers’ Compensation Act” [820 ILCS 305/1 et seq.].
No compensation is payable under this Act for any condition of physical or mental ill-being, disability, disablement, or death for which compensation is recoverable on account of accidental injury under the “Workers’ Compensation Act“.
Consequently the battle in worker’s compensation cases is whether or not someone was an employee. Several people are automatically excluded; first independent contractors are not employees. Interns are probably a revolving area of the law, and are probably moving close to being called employees. Several recent federal regulatory changes have required more education for interns and several lawsuits have resulted in interns receiving pay. If interns are paid, then they are employees covered under worker’s compensation.
Interns that have been injured and not covered by worker’s compensation are prevented from recovering because of state law, not because of unequal bargaining power.
The prohibition against lawsuits does not extend to malfunctioning equipment or any third party that might have caused the injury. An example would be an employee working on a road that is hit and injured by a car. The employee’s worker’s compensation would cover his lost wages and medical bills. The injured employee would still sue the driver of the car. However the worker’s compensation insurance company would have the right to recover any damages first before the injured employee based on its subrogation rights.
Simply put, an injury on the job provides guarantees not lawsuits. Those guarantees vary by state, but generally it means 100% of the injured employee’s medical bills are paid and a percentage of their income is replaced. If necessary additional retraining and/or long term disability if the injury is severe enough or permanent.
Employers don’t have to worry about being sued and employees do not have to worry about any defenses to their claims. Statues state that Assumption of the Risk is not a defense to a worker’s comp claim. (C.R.S. 8-41-101 (2013))
8-41-102. Liability of employer complying
An employer who has complied with the provisions of articles 40 to 47 of this title, including the provisions relating to insurance, shall not be subject to the provisions of section 8-41-101; nor shall such employer or the insurance carrier, if any, insuring the employer’s liability under said articles be subject to any other liability for the death of or personal injury to any employee, except as provided in said articles; and all causes of action, actions at law, suits in equity, proceedings, and statutory and common law rights and remedies for and on account of such death of or personal injury to any such employee and accruing to any person are abolished except as provided in said articles.
There is no litigation between employers and employees any more. Now that type of litigation resolves around whether or not someone was an employee. If you are an employer, make sure every person understands that situation and you can prove it, either in writing or some other way. You also must be able to prove that someone is not an employee according to the law. Just saying someone is not an employee is not enough.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
If you like this let your friends know or post it on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn
Copyright 2013 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law
Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law
Mobile Site: http://m.recreation-law.com
By Recreation Law Recfirstname.lastname@example.orgJames H. Moss #Authorrank
<rel=”author” link=” https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/112453188060350225356/” />
#RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #Ski.Law, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Outdoor Law, #Recreation Law, #Outdoor Recreation Law, #Adventure Travel Law, #law, #Travel Law, #Jim Moss, #James H. Moss, #Attorney at Law, #Tourism, #Adventure Tourism, #Rec-Law, #Rec-Law Blog, #Recreation Law, #Recreation Law Blog, #Risk Management, #Human Powered, #Human Powered Recreation,# Cycling Law, #Bicycling Law, #Fitness Law, #Recreation-Law.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #Ice Climbing, #Rock Climbing, #Ropes Course, #Challenge Course, #Summer Camp, #Camps, #Youth Camps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, #RecreationLaw, #@RecreationLaw, #Cycling.Law #Fitness.Law, #SkiLaw, #Outside.Law, #Recreation.Law, #RecreationLaw.com, #OutdoorLaw, #RecreationLaw, #OutdoorRecreationLaw, #AdventureTravelLaw, #Law, #TravelLaw, #JimMoss, #JamesHMoss, #AttorneyatLaw, #Tourism, #AdventureTourism, #RecLaw, #RecLawBlog, #RecreationLawBlog, #RiskManagement, #HumanPowered, #HumanPoweredRecreation,# CyclingLaw, #BicyclingLaw, #FitnessLaw, #RecreationLaw.com, #Backpacking, #Hiking, #Mountaineering, #IceClimbing, #RockClimbing, #RopesCourse, #ChallengeCourse, #SummerCamp, #Camps, #YouthCamps, #Skiing, #Ski Areas, #Negligence, #Snowboarding, sport and recreation laws, ski law, cycling law, Colorado law, law for recreation and sport managers, bicycling and the law, cycling and the law, ski helmet law, skiers code, skiing accidents, Recreation Lawyer, Ski Lawyer, Paddlesports Lawyer, Cycling Lawyer, Recreational Lawyer, Fitness Lawyer, Rec Lawyer, Challenge Course Lawyer, Ropes Course Lawyer, Zip Line Lawyer, Rock Climbing Lawyer, Adventure Travel Lawyer, Outside Lawyer, Recreation Lawyer, Ski Lawyer, Paddlesports Lawyer, Cycling Lawyer, #RecreationalLawyer, #FitnessLawyer, #RecLawyer, #ChallengeCourseLawyer, #RopesCourseLawyer, #ZipLineLawyer, #RockClimbingLawyer, #AdventureTravelLawyer, #OutsideLawyer, Good Samaritan, Samaritan, First Aid, EMS, Emergency Medical Systems, Worker’s Compensation, Workers Compensation, Employer, Employee, Negligence, Employer, Employee, Independent Contractor, Intern,
Wisconsin Sales Rep Statute
REGULATION OF TRADE
CHAPTER 134. MISCELLANEOUS TRADE REGULATIONS
Wis. Stat. § 134.93 (2012)
134.93. Payment of commissions to independent sales representatives.
In this section:
(a) “Commission” means compensation accruing to an independent sales representative for payment by a principal, the rate of which is expressed as a percentage of the dollar amount of orders or sales made by the independent sales representative or as a percentage of the dollar amount of profits generated by the independent sales representative.
(b) “Independent sales representative” means a person, other than an insurance agent or broker, who contracts with a principal to solicit wholesale orders and who is compensated, in whole or in part, by commission. “Independent sales representative” does not include any of the following:
1. A person who places orders or purchases products for the persons own account for resale.
2. A person who is an employee of the principal and whose wages must be paid as required under s. 109.03(3) “Principal” means a sole proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation or other business entity, whether or not having a permanent or fixed place of business in this state, that does all of the following:
1. Manufactures, produces, imports or distributes a product for wholesale.
2. Contracts with an independent sales representative to solicit orders for the product.
3. Compensates the independent sales representative, in whole or in part, by commission.
(2) COMMISSIONS; WHEN DUE.
(a) Subject to pars. (b) and (c), a commission becomes due as provided in the contract between the principal and the independent sales representative.
(b) If there is no written contract between the principal and the independent sales representative, or if the written contract does not provide for when a commission becomes due, or if the written contract is ambiguous or unclear as to when a commission becomes due, a commission becomes due according to the past practice used by the principal and the independent sales representative.
(c) If it cannot be determined under par. (a) or (b) when a commission becomes due, a commission becomes due according to the custom and usage prevalent in this state for the particular industry of the principal and independent sales representative.
(3) NOTICE OF TERMINATION OR CHANGE IN CONTRACT.
Unless otherwise provided in a written contract between a principal and an independent sales representative, a principal shall provide an independent sales representative with at least 90 days prior written notice of any termination, cancellation, nonrenewal or substantial change in the competitive circumstances of the contract between the principal and the independent sales representative.
(4) COMMISSIONS DUE; PAYMENT ON TERMINATION OF CONTRACT.
A principal shall pay an independent sales representative all commissions that are due to the independent sales representative at the time of termination, cancellation or nonrenewal of the contract between the principal and the independent sales representative as required under sub. (2)
(5) CIVIL LIABILITY.
Any principal that violates sub. (2) by failing to pay a commission due to an independent sales representative as required under sub. (2) is liable to the independent sales representative for the amount of the commission due and for exemplary damages of not more than 200% of the amount of the commissions due. In addition, the principal shall pay to the independent sales representative, notwithstanding the limitations specified in s. 799.25 or 814.04, all actual costs, including reasonable actual attorney fees, incurred by the independent sales representative in bringing an action, obtaining a judgment and collecting on a judgment under this subsection.
WordPress Tags: Wisconsin,Sales,Statute,REGULATION,TRADE,CHAPTER,MISCELLANEOUS,REGULATIONS,Stat,Payment,DEFINITIONS,Commission,compensation,percentage,dollar,Independent,person,insurance,agent,broker,products,account,employee,Principal,partnership,corporation,Manufactures,product,Contracts,Compensates,COMMISSIONS,Subject,pars,custom,usage,industry,NOTICE,TERMINATION,CHANGE,CONTRACT,cancellation,CIVIL,addition,limitations,attorney,action,judgment,subsection,nonrenewal
MICHIE’S ALABAMA CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 8 Commercial Law and Consumer Protection
CHAPTER 24 Sales Representative’s Commission Contracts
Go to the Alabama Code Archive Directory
Code of Ala. § 8-24-1 (2012)
§ 8-24-1. Definitions.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings, respectively, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(1) Commission. Compensation accruing to a sales representative for payment by a principal, the rate of which is expressed as a percentage of the dollar amount of certain orders or sales.
(2) Principal. Any person who does all of the following:
a. Engages in the business of manufacturing, producing, importing, or distributing a product or products for sale to customers who purchase the product or products for resale.
b. Utilizes sales representatives to solicit orders for the product or products.
c. Compensates the sales representatives, in whole or in part, by commission.
(3) Sales representative. Any person who engages in the business of soliciting, on behalf of a principal, orders for the purchase at wholesale of the product or products of the principal, but does not include a person who places orders or purchases for his or her own account for resale, or a person engaged in home solicitation sales.
(4) Termination. The end of services performed by the sales representative for the principal, whether by discharge, resignation, or expiration of a contract.
§ 8-24-2. Sales representative’s commission contracts; commission due.
(a) The terms of the contract between the principal and sales representative shall determine when a commission is due.
(b) If the time when the commission is due cannot be determined by a contract between the principal and sales representative, the past practices between the parties shall control, or if there are no past practices, the custom and usage prevalent in this state for the business that is the subject of the relationship between the parties shall control.
(c) All commissions that are due at the time of termination of a contract between a sales representative and principal shall be paid within thirty days after the date of termination. Commissions that become due after the termination date shall be paid within thirty days after the date on which the commissions become due.
§ 8-24-3. Failure to pay commission; damages; attorney’s fees.
A principal who fails to pay a commission as required by Section 8-24-2 is liable to the sales representative in a civil action for three times the damages sustained by the sales representative plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
§ 8-24-4. Nonresident principal; personal jurisdiction.
A principal who is not a resident of this state and who enters into a contract subject to this chapter is considered to be doing business in this state for purposes of the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the principal.
§ 8-24-5. Waiver void; unrestricted rights or remedies.
(a) This chapter may not be waived, whether by express waiver or by any provision in a contract attempting to make the contract or agreement subject to the laws of another state. A waiver of any provision of this chapter is void.
(b) This chapter does not invalidate or restrict any other right or remedy available to a sales representative or preclude a sales representative from seeking to recover in one action on all claims against a principal.
WordPress Tags: Alabama,Sales,Representative,MICHIE,CODE,TITLE,Commercial,Consumer,Protection,CHAPTER,Commission,Contracts,Archive,Directory,Definitions,meanings,context,Compensation,payment,percentage,dollar,Principal,person,Engages,product,products,sale,customers,Utilizes,Compensates,account,Termination,resignation,expiration,HISTORY,Acts,NOTES,statutes,recovery,DECISIONS,Duck,Head,Apparel,Hoots,LEXIS,Lindy,Twentieth,Century,Mktg,Robin,Pitts,Walter,custom,usage,relationship,Commissions,Cross,references,Interest,Time,limitations,prejudgment,efforts,Taxpayer,Ishler,Comm,Supp,Dist,Internal,Revenue,Failure,attorney,Section,action,Subject,jurisdiction,Corporation,writ,transactions,State,circuit,representation,agreement,controversy,Parte,Tahsin,Indus,Corp,Nonresident,purposes,Waiver,provision,laws,employer,fraud,suppression,statute,plaintiffs,jury,defendant,instruction,objection,error,resale,behalf,whether,commis,sions
ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES
TITLE 44. TRADE AND COMMERCE
CHAPTER 11. REGULATIONS CONCERNING PARTICULAR BUSINESSES
ARTICLE 15. SALES REPRESENTATIVE CONTRACTS
Go to the Arizona Code Archive Directory
A.R.S. § 44-1798.01 (2012)
§ 44-1798.01. Sales representative contract
A. The sales representative and the principal shall enter into a written contract. The contract shall set forth the method by which the sales representative’s commission is to be computed and paid.
B. The principal shall provide each sales representative with a signed copy of the contract. The principal shall obtain a signed receipt for the contract from each sales representative.
§ 44-1798.02. Termination of sales representative contract; payment of earned commissions
A. If an agreement of services is terminated for any reason both of the following apply:
1. All the commissions due through the time of termination shall be paid to the sales representative within a period of not to exceed thirty days after termination.
2. All the commissions that become due after the effective date of termination shall be paid to the sales representative within fourteen days after they become due.
B. The principal shall pay the sales representative all commissions due while the business relationship is in effect in accordance with the agreement between the parties.
C. A principal who fails to comply with subsections A and B of this section is liable to the sales representative for damages in the amount of three times the sum of the unpaid commissions owed to the sales representative.
D. The prevailing party in an action brought under this section is entitled to the cost of the suit, including reasonable attorney fees.
E. Commissions shall be paid at the usual place of payment unless the sales representative requests that the com-missions be sent by registered mail. If, in accordance with a request by the sales representative, the sales representative’s commissions are sent by mail, the commissions are deemed to have been paid as of the date of the registered postmark on the envelope.
F. Unless payment is made pursuant to a binding and final written settlement agreement and release, the acceptance by a sales representative of a commission payment from the principal does not constitute a release as to the balance of any commissions claimed due. A full release of all commission claims that is required by a principal as a condition to a partial commission payment is null and void.
WordPress Tags: Arizona,Sales,Representative,STATUTES,TITLE,TRADE,COMMERCE,CHAPTER,REGULATIONS,PARTICULAR,BUSINESSES,ARTICLE,CONTRACTS,Code,Archive,Directory,method,receipt,HISTORY,Laws,Termination,payment,agreement,relationship,accordance,subsections,action,cost,attorney,Commissions,missions,envelope,settlement,acceptance
Arkansas Code of 1987 Annotated Official Edition
© 1987-2012 by the State of Arkansas
All rights reserved.
Title 4 Business and Commercial Law
Subtitle 6. Business Practices
Chapter 70 General Provisions
Subchapter 3 — Sales Representatives
A.C.A. § 4-70-306 (2012)
As used in this subchapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
(1) “Commission” means compensation paid a sales representative by a principal in an amount based on a percentage of the dollar amount of certain orders for, or sales of, the principal’s product;
(2) “Principal” means a person who:
(A) Does not have a permanent or fixed place of business in this state;
(B) Manufactures, produces, imports, or distributes a product for sale to customers who purchase the product for resale;
(C) Uses a sales representative to solicit orders for the product; and
(D) Compensates the sales representative in whole or in part by commission; and
(3) “Sales representative” means a person who solicits on behalf of a principal orders for the purchase at wholesale of the principal’s product. The term “sales representative” does not include a person who places orders for or purchases the product for his or her own account for resale, or is engaged in door-to-door sales regulated by § 4-89-101 et seq.
4-70-302. Sales representatives’ contracts — Limitation.
(a) A contract between a principal and a sales representative under which the sales representative is to solicit wholesale orders within this state must be in writing and set forth the method by which the sales representative’s commission is to be computed and paid.
(b) The principal shall provide the sales representative with a copy of the contract.
(c) A provision in the contract establishing venue for an action arising under the contract in a state other than this state is void.
4-70-303. Payment in absence of contract.
If a compensation agreement between a sales representative and a principal that is not in writing is terminated, the principal shall pay all commissions due the sales representative within thirty (30) working days after the date of the termination.
A principal who is not a resident of this state and who enters into a contract subject to this subchapter is considered to be doing business in this state for purposes of the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the principal.
4-70-305. Waivers prohibited.
A provision of this subchapter may not be waived, whether by express waiver or by attempt to make a contract or agreement subject to the laws of another state. A waiver of a provision of this subchapter is void.
4-70-306. Damages and attorney’s fees.
A principal who fails to comply with a provision of a contract under § 4-70-302 relating to payment of a commission or fails to pay a commission as required by § 4-70-303 is liable to the sales representative in a civil action for three (3) times the damages sustained by the sales representative, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
WordPress Tags: Arkansas,Sales,Representative,Code,Official,Edition,State,Title,Commercial,Subtitle,Practices,Chapter,General,Provisions,Subchapter,Definitions,context,Commission,compensation,percentage,dollar,product,Principal,person,Does,Manufactures,sale,customers,Uses,Compensates,account,door,HISTORY,Acts,Limitation,method,provision,venue,action,Payment,absence,agreement,termination,Jurisdiction,purposes,Waivers,waiver,laws,Damages,attorney,resale
Colorado Revised Statutes
WHOLESALE SALES REPRESENTATIVES
12-66-101. Legislative declaration.
The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that independent wholesale sales representatives are a key ingredient to the Colorado economy. The general assembly further finds and declares that wholesale sales representatives spend many hours developing their territory in order to properly market their products. Therefore, it is the intent of the general assembly to provide security and clarify the relations between distributors, jobbers, or manufacturers and their wholesale sales representatives.
12-66-102. Jurisdiction over nonresident representatives
A distributor, jobber, or manufacturer who is not a resident of Colorado and who enters into any written contract or written sales agreement regulated by this article shall be deemed to be doing business in Colorado for purposes of personal jurisdiction.
(1) A distributor, jobber, or manufacturer who knowingly fails to pay commissions as provided in any written contract or written sales agreement shall be liable to the wholesale sales representative in a civil action for treble the damages proved at trial.
(2) In a civil action brought by a wholesale sales representative pursuant to this section, the prevailing party shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs in addition to any other recovery.
WordPress Tags: Colorado,Sales,Statutes,ARTICLE,WHOLESALE,Legislative,declaration,Jurisdiction,Damages,Liquor,licensees,ingredient,hours,products,relations,distributors,manufacturers,distributor,manufacturer,agreement,purposes,action,attorney,addition,recovery,jobber
ILLINOIS COMPILED STATUTES ANNOTATED
CHAPTER 820. EMPLOYMENT
WAGES AND HOURS
SALES REPRESENTATIVE ACT
GO TO THE ILLINOIS STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY
820 ILCS 120/0.01 (2012)
[Prior to 1/1/93 cited as: Ill. Rev. Stat., Ch. 48, para. 2250]
§ 820 ILCS 120/0.01. Short title
Sec. 0.01. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Sales Representative Act.
§ 820 ILCS 120/1. [Terms defined]
Sec. 1. As used in this Act:
(1) “Commission” means compensation accruing to a sales representative for payment by a principal, the rate of which is expressed as a percentage of the dollar amount of orders or sales or as a percentage of the dollar amount of profits.
(2) When a commission becomes due shall be determined in the following manner:
(A) The terms of the contract between the principal and salesperson shall control;
(B) If there is no contract, or if the terms of the contract do not provide when the commission becomes due, or the terms are ambiguous or unclear, the past practice used by the parties shall control;
(C) If neither (A) nor (B) can be used to clearly ascertain when the commission becomes due, the custom and usage prevalent in this State for the parties’ particular industry shall control.
(3) “Principal” means a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or other business entity whether or not it has a permanent or fixed place of business in this State and which:
(A) Manufactures, produces, imports, or distributes a product for sale;
(B) Contracts with a sales representative to solicit orders for the product; and
(C) Compensates the sales representative, in whole or in part, by commission.
(4) “Sales representative” means a person who contracts with a principal to solicit orders and who is compensated, in whole or in part, by commission, but shall not include one who places orders or purchases for his own account for resale or one who qualifies as an employee of the principal pursuant to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act [820 ILCS 115/1 et seq.].
§ 820 ILCS 120/2. [Commissions due after termination of contract]
Sec. 2. All commissions due at the time of termination of a contract between a sales representative and principal shall be paid within 13 days of termination, and commissions that become due after termination shall be paid within 13 days of the date on which such commissions become due. Any provision in any contract between a sales representative and principal purporting to waive any of the provisions of this Act shall be void.
§ 820 ILCS 120/3. [Exemplary damages; payment of attorney’s fees and court costs]
Sec. 3. A principal who fails to comply with the provisions of Section 2 [820 ILCS 120/2] concerning timely payment or with any contractual provision concerning timely payment of commissions due upon the termination of the contract with the sales representative, shall be liable in a civil action for exemplary damages in an amount which does not exceed 3 times the amount of the commissions owed to the sales representative. Additionally, such principal shall pay the sales representative’s reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
BURNS INDIANA STATUTES ANNOTATED
Title 24 Trade Regulations; Consumer Sales and Credit
Article 4 Regulated Businesses
Chapter 7 Contracts with Wholesale Sales Representatives
Go to the Indiana Code Archive Directory
Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 24-4-7-0.1 (2012)
24-4-7-0.1. Applicability of IC 24-4-7 to contracts formed before September 1, 1985.
The addition of this chapter by P.L.238-1985 does not apply to contracts formed before September 1, 1985.
24-4-7-1. “Commission” defined.
As used in this chapter, “commission” means compensation that accrues to a sales representative, for payment by a principal, at a rate expressed as a percentage of the dollar amount of orders taken or sales made by the sales representative.
24-4-7-2. “Person” defined.
As used in this chapter, “person” means an individual, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, unincorporated association, estate, or trust.
24-4-7-3. “Principal” defined.
As used in this chapter, “principal” means a person who:
(1) Manufactures, produces, imports, sells, or distributes a product for wholesale;
(2) Contracts with a sales representative to solicit wholesale orders for the product; and
(3) Compensates the sales representative, in whole or in part, by commission.
24-4-7-4. “Sales representative” defined.
As used in this chapter, “sales representative” means a person who:
(1) Contracts with a principal to solicit wholesale orders in Indiana; and
(2) Is compensated, in whole or in part, by commission.
The term does not include a person who places orders or purchases on the person’s own account for resale.
24-4-7-5. Payment of commissions following termination of contract — Civil action — Attorney’s fees.
(a) If a contract between a sales representative and a principal is terminated, the principal shall, within fourteen (14) days after payment would have been due under the contract if the contract had not been terminated, pay to the sales representative all commissions accrued under the contract.
(b) A principal who in bad faith fails to comply with subsection (a) shall be liable, in a civil action brought by the sales representative, for exemplary damages in an amount no more than three (3) times the sum of the commissions owed to the sales representative.
(c) In a civil action under subsection (b), a principal against whom exemplary damages are awarded shall pay the sales representative’s reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. However, if judgment is entered for the principal and the court determines that the action was brought on frivolous grounds, the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs to the principal.
24-4-7-6. Doing business in Indiana.
For purposes of Indiana trial rule 4.4, a principal who contracts with a sales representative to solicit wholesale orders for a product in Indiana is doing business in Indiana.
24-4-7-7. Revocable offer of commission.
(a) If a principal makes a revocable offer of a commission to a sales representative who is not an employee of the principal, the sales representative is entitled to the commission agreed upon if:
(1) the principal revokes the offer of commission and the sales representative establishes that the revocation was for a purpose of avoiding payment of the commission;
(2) the revocation occurs after the sales representative has obtained a written order for the principal’s product because of the efforts of the sales representative; and
(3) the principal’s product that is the subject of the order is shipped to and paid for by a customer.
(b) This section may not be construed:
(1) to impair the application of IC 32-21-1 (statute of frauds);
(2) to abrogate any rule of agency law; or
(3) to unconstitutionally impair the obligations of contracts.
24-4-7-8. Waiver of statutory provision.
A provision in a contract between a sales representative and a principal that waives a provision of this chapter by:
(1) An express waiver; or
(2) A contract subject to the laws of another state; is void.
WordPress Tags: Indiana,Sales,Representative,BURNS,STATUTES,Title,Trade,Regulations,Consumer,Credit,Article,Businesses,Chapter,Contracts,Wholesale,Code,Archive,Directory,September,addition,HISTORY,Commission,compensation,payment,percentage,dollar,NOTES,Research,References,Collateral,Termination,provision,Person,corporation,partnership,association,estate,Principal,Manufactures,product,Compensates,account,Civil,action,Attorney,faith,subsection,judgment,purposes,Revocable,employee,revocation,purpose,efforts,customer,statute,frauds,agency,obligations,Waiver,laws
TITLE III. PUBLIC SERVICES AND REGULATION
SUBTITLE 2. EMPLOYMENT SERVICES
CHAPTER 91A. WAGE PAYMENT COLLECTION
Iowa Code § 91A.1 (2012)
91A.1 Short title.
This chapter shall be known and may be referred to as the “Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law”.
As used in this chapter:
1. “Commissioner” means the labor commissioner or a designee.
2. “Days” means calendar days.
3. “Employee” means a natural person who is employed in this state for wages by an employer. Employee also includes a commission salesperson who takes orders or performs services on behalf of a principal and who is paid on the basis of commissions but does not include persons who purchase for their own account for resale. For the purposes of this chapter, the following persons engaged in agriculture are not employees:
a. The spouse of the employer and relatives of either the employer or spouse residing on the premises of the employer.
b. A person engaged in agriculture as an owner-operator or tenant-operator and the spouse or relatives of either who reside on the premises while exchanging labor with the operator or for other mutual benefit of any and all such persons.
c. Neighboring persons engaged in agriculture who are exchanging labor or other services.
4. “Employer” means a person, as defined in chapter 4, who in this state employs for wages a natural person. An employer does not include a client, patient, customer, or other person who obtains professional services from a licensed person who provides the services on a fee service basis or as an independent contractor.
5. “Health benefit plan” means a plan or agreement provided by an employer for employees for the provision of or payment for care and treatment of sickness or injury.
6. “Liquidated damages” means the sum of five percent multiplied by the amount of any wages that were not paid or of any authorized expenses that were not reimbursed on a regular payday or on another day pursuant to section 91A.3 multiplied by the total number of days, excluding Sundays, legal holidays, and the first seven days after the regular payday on which wages were not paid or expenses were not reimbursed. However, such sum shall not exceed the amount of the unpaid wages and shall not accumulate when an employer is subject to a petition filed in bankruptcy.
7. “Wages” means compensation owed by an employer for:
a. Labor or services rendered by an employee, whether determined on a time, task, piece, commission, or other basis of calculation.
b. Vacation, holiday, sick leave, and severance payments which are due an employee under an agreement with the employer or under a policy of the employer.
c. Any payments to the employee or to a fund for the benefit of the employee, including but not limited to payments for medical, health, hospital, welfare, pension, or profit-sharing, which are due an employee under an agreement with the employer or under a policy of the employer. The assets of an employee in a fund for the benefit of the employee, whether such assets were originally paid into the fund by an employer or employee, are not wages.
d. Expenses incurred and recoverable under a health benefit plan.
91A.3 Mode of payment.
1. An employer shall pay all wages due its employees, less any lawful deductions specified in section 91A.5, at least in monthly, semimonthly, or biweekly installments on regular paydays which are at consistent intervals from each other and which are designated in advance by the employer. However, if any of these wages due its employees are determined on a commission basis, the employer may, upon agreement with the employee, pay only a credit against such wages. If such credit is paid, the employer shall, at regular intervals, pay any difference between a credit paid against wages determined on a commission basis and such wages actually earned on a commission basis. These regular intervals shall not be separated by more than twelve months. A regular payday shall not be more than twelve days, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, after the end of the period in which the wages were earned. An employer and employee may, upon written agreement which shall be maintained as a record, vary the provisions of this subsection.
2. The wages paid under subsection 1 shall be paid in United States currency or by written instrument issued by the employer and negotiable on demand at full face value for such currency, unless the employee has agreed in writing to receive a part of or all wages in kind or in other form.
3. a. The wages paid under subsection 1 shall be paid at the employee’s normal place of employment during normal employment hours or at a place and hour mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee, or the employee may elect to have the wages sent for direct deposit, on or by the regular payday of the employee, into a financial institution designated by the employee. Upon written request by the employee, wages due may be sent to the employee by mail. The employer shall maintain a copy of the request for as long as it is effective and for at least two years thereafter. An employee hired on or after July 1, 2005, may be required, as a condition of employment, to participate in direct deposit of the employee’s wages in a financial institution of the employee’s choice unless any of the following conditions exist:
(1) The costs to the employee of establishing and maintaining an account for purposes of the direct deposit would effectively reduce the employee’s wages to a level below the minimum wage provided under section 91D.1.
(2) The employee would incur fees charged to the employee’s account as a result of the direct deposit.
(3) The provisions of a collective bargaining agreement mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee organization prohibit the employer from requiring an employee to sign up for direct deposit as a condition of hire.b. If the employer fails to pay an employee’s wages on or by the regular payday in accordance with this subsection, the employer is liable for the amount of any overdraft charge if the overdraft is created on the employee’s account because of the employer’s failure to pay the wages on or by the regular payday. The overdraft charges may be the basis for a claim under section 91A.10 and for damages under section 91A.8.
4. The wages paid under subsection 1 may be delivered to a designee of the employee who is so designated in writing or may be sent to the employee by any reasonable means requested by the employee in writing. A designee under this subsection shall not also be an assignee or buyer of wages under section 539.4 nor a garnisher of the employee under chapter 642, unless the designee complies with the provisions of section 539.4 and chapter 642.
5. If an employee is absent from the normal place of employment on the regular payday, the employer shall, upon demand of the employee made within the first seven days following the regular payday, pay the wages, less any lawful deductions specified in section 91A.5, which were due on that regular payday. However, if demand is not made within this seven-day period, the employer shall, upon demand of the employee, pay the wages which were due on a regular payday within the first seven days following the day on which demand is made.
6. Expenses by the employee which are authorized by the employer and incurred by the employee shall either be reimbursed in advance of expenditure or be reimbursed not later than thirty days after the employee’s submission of an expense claim. If the employer refuses to pay all or part of each claim, the employer shall submit to the employee a written justification of such refusal within the same time period in which expense claims are paid under this subsection.
7. If a farm labor contractor contracts with a person engaged in the production of seed or feed grains to remove unwanted or genetically deviant plants or corn tassels or to hand pollinate plants, and fails to pay all wages due the employees of the farm labor contractor, the person engaged in the production of seed or feed grains shall also be liable to the employees for wages not paid by the farm labor contractor.
91A.4 Employment suspension or termination — how wages are paid.
When the employment of an employee is suspended or terminated, the employer shall pay all wages earned, less any lawful deductions specified in section 91A.5 by the employee up to the time of the suspension or termination not later than the next regular payday for the pay period in which the wages were earned as provided in section 91A.3. However, if any of these wages are the difference between a credit paid against wages determined on a commission basis and the wages actually earned on a commission basis, the employer shall pay the difference not more than thirty days after the date of suspension or termination. If vacations are due an employee under an agreement with the employer or a policy of the employer establishing pro rata vacation accrued, the increment shall be in proportion to the fraction of the year which the employee was actually employed.
91A.5 Deductions from wages.
1. An employer shall not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages unless:
a. The employer is required or permitted to do so by state or federal law or by order of a court of competent juris-diction; or
b. The employer has written authorization from the employee to so deduct for any lawful purpose accruing to the benefit of the employee.
2. The following shall not be deducted from an employee’s wages:
a. Cash shortage in a common money till, cash box, or register operated by two or more employees or by an em-ployee and an employer. However, the employer and a full-time employee who is the manager of an establishment may agree in writing signed by both parties that the employee will be responsible for a cash shortage that occurs within forty-five days prior to the most recent regular payday. Not more than one such agreement shall be in effect per establishment.
b. Losses due to acceptance by an employee on behalf of the employer of checks which are subsequently dishon-ored if the employee has been given the discretion to accept or reject such checks and the employee does not abuse the discretion given.
c. Losses due to breakage, damage to property, default of customer credit, or nonpayment for goods or services rendered so long as such losses are not attributable to the employee’s willful or intentional disregard of the employer’s interests.
d. Lost or stolen property, unless the property is equipment specifically assigned to, and receipt acknowledged in writing by, the employee from whom the deduction is made.
e. Gratuities received by an employee from customers of the employer.
f. Costs of personal protective equipment, other than items of clothing or footwear which may be used by an em-ployee during nonworking hours, needed to protect an employee from employment-related hazards, unless provided otherwise in a collective bargaining agreement.
g. Costs of more than twenty dollars for an employee’s relocation to the place of employment. This paragraph shall apply only to an employer as defined in section 91E.1.
91A.5A Holiday time off — Veterans Day.
1. An employer shall provide each employee who is a veteran, as defined in section 35.1, with holiday time off for Veterans Day, November 11, if the employee would otherwise be required to work on that day, as provided in this section.
2. An employer, in complying with this section, shall have the discretion of providing paid or unpaid time off on Veterans Day, unless providing time off would impact public health or safety or would cause the employer to experience significant economic or operational disruption.
3. a. An employee shall provide the employer with at least one month’s prior written notice of the employee’s intent to take time off for Veterans Day and shall also provide the employer with a federal certificate of release or discharge from active duty, or such similar federal document, for purposes of determining the employee’s eligibility for the benefit provided in this section.
b. The employer shall, at least ten days prior to Veterans Day, notify the employee if the employee shall be provided paid or unpaid time off on Veterans Day. If the employer determines that the employer is unable to provide time off for Veterans Day for all employees who request time off, the employer shall deny time off to the minimum number of employees needed by the employer to protect public health and safety or to maintain minimum operational capacity, as applicable.
91A.6 Notice and recordkeeping requirements.
1. An employer shall after being notified by the commissioner pursuant to subsection 2:
a. Notify its employees in writing at the time of hiring what wages and regular paydays are designated by the employer.
b. Notify, at least one pay period prior to the initiation of any changes, its employees of any changes in the arrangements specified in subsection 1 that reduce wages or alter the regular paydays. The notice shall either be in writing or posted at a place where employee notices are routinely posted.
c. Make available to its employees upon written request, a written statement enumerating employment agreements and policies with regard to vacation pay, sick leave, reimbursement for expenses, retirement benefits, severance pay, or other comparable matters with respect to wages. Notice of such availability shall be given to each employee in writing or by a notice posted at a place where employee notices are routinely posted.
d. Establish, maintain, and preserve for three calendar years the payroll records showing the hours worked, wages earned, and deductions made for each employee and any employment agreements entered into between an employer and employee.
2. The commissioner shall notify an employer to comply with subsection 1 if the employer has paid a claim for unpaid wages or nonreimbursed authorized expenses and liquidated damages under section 91A.10 or if the employer has been assessed a civil money penalty under section 91A.12. However, a court may, when rendering a judgment for wag-es or nonreimbursed authorized expenses and liquidated damages or upholding a civil money penalty assessment, order that an employer shall not be required to comply with the provisions of subsection 1 or that an employer shall be required to comply with the provisions of subsection 1 for a particular period of time.
3. Within ten working days of a request by an employee, an employer shall furnish to the employee a written, itemized statement or access to a written, itemized statement as provided in subsection 4, listing the earnings and deductions made from the wages for each pay period in which the deductions were made together with an explanation of how the wages and deductions were computed.
4. On each regular payday, the employer shall send to each employee by mail or shall provide at the employee’s normal place of employment during normal employment hours a statement showing the hours the employee worked, the wages earned by the employee, and deductions made for the employee. However, the employer need not provide information on hours worked for employees who are exempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as defined in 29 C.F.R. pt. 541, unless the employer has established a policy or practice of paying to or on behalf of exempt employees overtime, a bonus, or a payment based on hours worked, whereupon the employer shall send or otherwise provide a statement to the exempt employees showing the hours the employee worked or the payments made to the employee by the employer, as applicable. An employer who provides each employee access to view an electronic statement of the employee’s earnings and provides the employee free and unrestricted access to a printer to print the employee’s statement of earnings, if the employee chooses, is in compliance with this subsection.
91A.7 Wage disputes.
If there is a dispute between an employer and employee concerning the amount of wages or expense reimbursement due, the employer shall, without condition and pursuant to section 91A.3, pay all wages conceded to be due and reimburse all expenses conceded to be due, less any lawful deductions specified in section 91A.5. Payment of wages or reimbursement of expenses under this section shall not relieve the employer of any liability for the balance of wages or expenses claimed by the employee.
91A.8 Damages recoverable by an employee.
When it has been shown that an employer has intentionally failed to pay an employee wages or reimburse expenses pursuant to section 91A.3, whether as the result of a wage dispute or otherwise, the employer shall be liable to the employee for any wages or expenses that are so intentionally failed to be paid or reimbursed, plus liquidated damages, court costs and any attorney’s fees incurred in recovering the unpaid wages and determined to have been usual and necessary. In other instances the employer shall be liable only for unpaid wages or expenses, court costs and usual and necessary attorney’s fees incurred in recovering the unpaid wages or expenses.
91A.9 General powers and duties of the commissioner.
1. The commissioner shall administer and enforce the provisions of this chapter. The commissioner may hold hearings and investigate charges of violations of this chapter.
2. The commissioner may, consistent with due process of law, enter any place of employment to inspect records concerning wages and payrolls, to question the employer and employees, and to investigate such facts, conditions, or matters as are deemed appropriate in determining whether any person has violated the provisions of this chapter. How-ever, such entry by the commissioner shall only be in response to a written complaint.
3. The commissioner may employ such qualified personnel as are necessary for the enforcement of this chapter. Such personnel shall be employed pursuant to chapter 8A, subchapter IV.
4. The commissioner shall, in consultation with the United States department of labor, develop a database of the employers in this state utilizing special certificates issued by the United States secretary of labor as authorized under 29 U.S.C. § 214, and shall maintain the database.
5. The commissioner shall promulgate, pursuant to chapter 17A, any rules necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
91A.10 Settlement of claims and suits for wages — prohibition against discharge of employee.
1. Upon the written complaint of the employee involved, the commissioner may determine whether wages have not been paid and may constitute an enforceable claim. If for any reason the commissioner decides not to make such determination, the commissioner shall so notify the complaining employee within fourteen days of receipt of the complaint. The commissioner shall otherwise notify the employee of such determination within a reasonable time and if it is determined that there is an enforceable claim, the commissioner shall, with the consent of the complaining employee, take an assignment in trust for the wages and for any claim for liquidated damages without being bound by any of the technical rules respecting the validity of the assignment. However, the commissioner shall not accept any complaint for unpaid wages and liquidated damages after one year from the date the wages became due and payable.
2. The commissioner, with the assistance of the office of the attorney general if the commissioner requests such assistance, shall, unless a settlement is reached under this subsection, commence a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction to recover for the benefit of any employee any wage, expenses, and liquidated damages’ claims that have been assigned to the commissioner for recovery. The commissioner may also request reasonable and necessary attorney fees. With the consent of the assigning employee, the commissioner may also settle a claim on behalf of the assigning employee. Proceedings under this subsection and subsection 1 that precede commencement of a civil action shall be conducted informally without any party having a right to be heard before the commissioner. The commissioner may join various assignments in one claim for the purpose of settling or litigating their claims.
3. The provisions of subsections 1 and 2 shall not be construed to prevent an employee from settling or bringing an action for damages under section 91A.8 if the employee has not assigned the claim under subsection 1.
4. Any recovery of attorney fees, in the case of actions brought under this section by the commissioner, shall be remitted by the commissioner to the treasurer of state for deposit in the general fund of the state. Also, the commissioner shall not be required to pay any filing fee or other court costs.
5. An employer shall not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has filed a complaint, assigned a claim, or brought an action under this section or has cooperated in bringing any action against an employer. Any employee may file a complaint with the commissioner alleging discharge or discrimination within thirty days after such violation occurs. Upon receipt of the complaint, the commissioner shall cause an investigation to be made to the extent deemed appropriate. If the commissioner determines from the investigation that the provisions of this subsection have been violated, the commissioner shall bring an action in the appropriate district court against such person. The district court shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, to restrain violations of this subsection and order all appropriate relief including rehiring or reinstatement of the employee to the former position with back pay.
91A.11 Wage claims brought under reciprocity.
1. The commissioner may enter into reciprocal agreements with the labor department or corresponding agency of any other state or its representatives for the collection in such other states of claims or judgments for wages and other demands based upon claims assigned to the commissioner.
2. The commissioner may, to the extent provided for by any reciprocal agreement entered into by law or with an agency of another state as provided in this section, maintain actions in the courts of such other state to the extent permitted by the laws of that state for the collection of claims for wages, judgments and other demands and may assign such claims, judgments and demands to the labor department or agency of such other state for collection to the extent that such an assignment may be permitted or provided for by the laws of such state or by reciprocal agreement.
3. The commissioner may, upon the written consent of the labor department or other corresponding agency of any other state or its representatives, maintain actions in the courts of this state upon assigned claims for wages, judgments and demands arising in such other state in the same manner and to the same extent that such actions by the commissioner are authorized when arising in this state. However, such actions may be maintained only in cases in which such other state by law or reciprocal agreement extends a like comity to cases arising in this state.
91A.12 Civil penalties.
1. Any employer who violates the provisions of this chapter or the rules promulgated under it shall be subject to a civil money penalty of not more than five hundred dollars per pay period for each violation. The commissioner may recover such civil money penalty according to the provisions of subsections 2 to 5. Any civil money penalty recovered shall be deposited in the general fund of the state.
2. The commissioner may propose that an employer be assessed a civil money penalty by serving the employer with notice of such proposal in the same manner as an original notice is served under the rules of civil procedure. Upon service of such notice, the proposed assessment shall be treated as a contested case under chapter 17A. However, an employer must request a hearing within thirty days of being served.
3. If an employer does not request a hearing pursuant to subsection 2 or if the commissioner determines, after an appropriate hearing, that an employer is in violation of this chapter, the commissioner shall assess a civil money penalty which is consistent with the provisions of subsection 1 and which is rendered with due consideration for the penalty amount in terms of the size of the employer’s business, the gravity of the violation, the good faith of the employer, and the history of previous violations.
4. An employer may seek judicial review of any assessment rendered under subsection 3 by instituting proceedings for judicial review pursuant to chapter 17A. However, such proceedings must be instituted in the district court of the county in which the violation or one of the violations occurred and within thirty days of the day on which the employer was notified that an assessment has been rendered. Also, an employer may be required, at the discretion of the district court and upon instituting such proceedings, to deposit the amount assessed with the clerk of the district court. Any moneys so deposited shall either be returned to the employer or be forwarded to the commissioner for deposit in the general fund of the state, depending on the outcome of the judicial review, including any appeal to the supreme court.
5. After the time for seeking judicial review has expired or after all judicial review has been exhausted and the commissioner’s assessment has been upheld, the commissioner shall request the attorney general to recover the assessed penalties in a civil action.
91A.13 Travel time to worksite — when compensable.
Unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise, an employee is not entitled to compensation for the time that an employee spends traveling to and from the worksite on transportation provided by the employer, when during that time, the employee performs no work, the transportation is provided by the employer as a convenience for the employee, and the employee is not required by the employer to use that means of transportation to the worksite. An employee is entitled to compensation for the time that an employee spends traveling between worksites if the travel is done during working hours.
91A.14 Former employees.
The rights and obligations outlined in this chapter continue until they are fulfilled, even though the employ-er-employee relationship has been severed.