TRYON TRUCKING, INC. APPELLANT
RANDY MEDLIN, HON. BRENT E. DYE, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE, WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD, DAVID O. GRIFFITH, DAVID O. GRIFFITH, d/b/a DAVID GRIFFITH TRUCKING, ORLA L. SMITH d/b/a O.L. SMITH TRUCKING, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, UNINSURED EMPLOYERS FUND and MIKRON INDUSTRIES APPELLEES
APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2018-CA-001076-WC
WORKER’S COMPENSATION BOARD NO. 14-WC-00873
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, RANDY MEDLIN: John F. Kelley, Jr.
William & Towe Law Group, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BOARD:
Michael W. Alvey
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, DAVID O. GRIFFITH and DAVID O. GRIFFITH
d/b/a DAVID GRIFFITH TRUCKING: James A. Ridings Hamm, Milby
& Ridings, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, ORLA L. SMITH d/b/a O.L. SMITH
TRUCKING: David Howard
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, UNINSURED
EMPLOYERS’ FUND: Charles Davis Batson Assistant
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, MIKRON INDUSTRIES: Kimberly K. Van Der
Heiden Van Der Heiden Law Firm, PLLC Hon. Brent E. Dye,
Administrative Law Judge Not Represented by Counsel
Trucking, Inc., appeals from an opinion of the Court of
Appeals affirming a Workers' Compensation Board (Board)
opinion that affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded
the opinion and order of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
for further findings of fact concerning whether Tryon was,
pursuant to KRS 342.610(2), an up-the-ladder employer of
Randy Medlin, who (Matter Not Available).
contends that the portion of the ALJ's opinion and order
finding that Tryon was not an "up-the-ladder"
employer pursuant to KRS 342.610(2) was based on substantial
evidence and, accordingly, pursuant to the applicable
standards of review, the Board erred when it remanded the
decision to the ALJ with a request for further findings of
fact rather than affirming the ALJ's decision.
we agree with the Board and conclude that the ALJ's
determination that Tryon was not an up-the-ladder employer of
Medlin was based upon a misconstruction of Uninsured
Employers' Fund v. Ritchie, No. 2012-SC-00746-WC,
2014 WL 1118201 (Ky. Mar. 20, 2014), we affirm the Board and
Court of Appeals' decisions to remand the case to the ALJ
for a reexamination based upon a correct construction of that
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
25, 2013, Medlin suffered multiple serious work-related
injuries in a motor vehicle accident while driving a
tractor-trailer truck leased by Tryon, including an injury
which required amputation of his left leg below the knee,
hearing loss, and numerous laceration injuries. At the time
of the accident, Medlin was operating a truck owned by David
O. Griffith, who was determined by the ALJ to be Medlin's
employer at the time of the accident.
whose business is located in Corbin, Kentucky, owned several
tractor-trailer trucks that he leased to Tryon pursuant to a
2013, "Equipment and Service Agreement Between
Independent Contractor (David O. Griffith) and Carrier
occasion Griffith had leased the truck to Tryon and had hired
Medlin, whom he often used as a driver, to drive a cargo of
windows owned by Mikron Industries, Inc., to Texas. Griffith
believed he had hired Medlin as an independent contractor and
that, therefore, Medlin was not his employee. It is now
uncontested that Griffith was Medlin's employer at the
time of the accident.
a Pennsylvania company, is a company whose business model is
to contract with businesses needing cargo moved by truck
(such as Mikron), then contract to lease semi-trucks from
trucking operators (such as Griffith), and then coordinate
the transportation of the cargo in the trucks it leases.
Thus, Tryon is both a transportation broker that locates
cargo in need of hauling and a carrier, though its carrier
operations are not performed through its own trucks and
employees but rather by the equipment and employees of
third-party trucking firms.
result is that Tryon is the intersection between those who
need cargos hauled and trucking operators looking for loads
to haul. Under this model Tryon has a contract with both of
those parties. In contrast to other business models, Tryon
does not simply bring the cargo owner and trucking company
together for those two third-parties to contract between
themselves to complete the haul; rather, Tryon further
interjects itself into the process by leasing the equipment
that will accomplish the hauling job.
result of his work-related accident, Medlin filed a claim for
benefits with the Department of Workers' Claims. In his
claim Medlin alleged that his employers at that time of the
accident were David O. Griffith d/b/a David Griffith
Trucking; David E. Griffith d/b/a David Griffith Trucking;
O.L. Smith Trucking; and Tryon. When it became apparent that
there might not be workers' compensation coverage
available through any of these entities, Medlin added the
Uninsured Employers' Fund (UEF) as a party. Medlin later
added Mikron, the owner of the cargo that Medlin was
transporting, as an alleged employer. Each alleged employer
contended that Medlin was either not its employee at the time
of the accident or that he was driving as an independent
case was initially assigned to ALJ Otto Wolff. At the outset
of the proceedings, Tryon filed a motion requesting that ALJ
Wolff resolve whether any of the defendants were Medlin's
employer before the claim proceeded any further. On January
11, 2016, ALJ Wolff entered an "Interlocutory Opinion
and Order" addressing Medlin's employment status
concerning the potential employers named in the litigation.
In the order ALJ Wolff found that Medlin was an employee and
not an independent contractor on the day of the accident;
that David O. Griffith was Medlin's employer and did not
have workers' compensation insurance coverage when the
accident occurred; and that the facts did not support a
finding that either Tryon or Mikron was a statutory
"up-the-ladder" employer under KRS 342.610(2).
decision ALJ Wolff cited extensively to this Court's
unpublished opinion in Uninsured Employers' Fund v.
Ritchie, No. 2012-SC-00746-WC, 2014 WL 1118201 (Ky. Mar.
20, 2014),  in support of his conclusion that neither
Tryon nor Mikron had up-the-ladder responsibility as an
employer. ALJ Wolff stated that "[t]he facts and working
relationships in this claim are almost identical to
the facts and working relationships addressed in
[Ritchie]." (emphasis added). It is ALJ
Wolff's extensive reliance on this decision and his
finding that the two cases are "almost identical, "
and the Board's disagreement with his interpretation of
the case and its conclusion that the cases are not
"almost identical, " that resulted in the
Board's remand for additional findings of fact and
discussion by ALJ Wolff's successor, ALJ Brent Dye.
Wolff further found that Griffith was liable for payment of
Medlin's workers' compensation benefits and that if
Griffith either did not pay the benefits or filed bankruptcy,