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Kayden v. Ford Motor Co.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

September 19, 2017

HELEN KAYDEN, Appellant,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri The Honorable Janet Lodwick Sutton, Judge

          Before James Edward Welsh, P.J., Thomas H. Newton, and Gary D. Witt, JJ.

          JAMES EDWARD WELSH, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Plaintiff/Appellant Helen Kayden ("Kayden") appeals from the Judgment of the Circuit Court of Clay County granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant/Respondent Ford Motor Company ("Ford") on Kayden's petition. The circuit court found that Kayden was a "statutory employee" of Ford when she was injured and her exclusive remedy against Ford is the Missouri's Workers' Compensation Act. The circuit court accordingly granted summary judgment in favor of Ford finding that the court lacked the statutory authority to proceed. Kayden now appeals. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         Kayden's action against Ford arises out of an injury she sustained on March 22, 2010, when she slipped and fell on the parking lot of Ford's assembly plant in Claycomo, Missouri. Kayden was employed by U.S. Security Associates, Inc. as a private security guard and had worked in this capacity from 2007 to February of 2011. Kayden's employer entered into a contract with Allied Automotive Group, which had contracted with Ford to provide security services for Ford. Kayden's job responsibilities for Ford included monitoring the Claycomo assembly plant parking lot to ensure the security of recently assembled vehicles and to stop unauthorized vehicles from entering the parking lot. Kayden would also check and verify the paperwork of drivers leaving the parking lot. Kayden worked approximately thirty hours per week in this capacity.

         Kayden alleged in her petition that she was injured when she slipped and fell while at work providing security services for Ford. She alleged that Ford, through its agents, used too much patching material to fill a large pothole in the parking lot where she worked and failed to remove the excess patching material. Kayden claims that this excess patching material combined with rain and snow, to create a slippery mud-like substance a few inches deep. Kayden alleged that Ford's employees or agents created this dangerous condition and failed to warn her of the dangerous condition. According to Kayden, Ford's direct negligence caused her to slip and fall and sustain her injuries. As an affirmative defense to Kayden's claims, Ford asserted that Kayden was a statutory employee of Ford under the Missouri Workers' Compensation Act.

         Ford filed its Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that Kayden, as Ford's statutory employee, had as her exclusive remedy the Missouri's Workers' Compensation Act. The circuit court agreed, finding that "[a]s a result of [Kayden's] status as a statutory employee of Ford Motor Company, her exclusive remedy against defendant Ford Motor Company is provided by Missouri's Workers' Compensation Statute and this Court lacks the statutory authority to proceed." Kayden now appeals.

         Standard of Review

When considering an appeal from a summary judgment, we review the record in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was entered, and we afford that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid-Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). Because the circuit court's judgment is based on the record submitted and the law, we need not defer to the circuit court's order granting summary judgment. Id. Rather, because "[t]he propriety of summary judgment is purely an issue of law, " we review the grant of a summary judgment de novo. Id. "The criteria on appeal for testing the propriety of summary judgment are no different from those which should be employed by the trial court to determine the propriety of sustaining the motion initially." Id. Thus, we will affirm the grant of a summary judgment where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 377, 380.

Reverse Mortg. Sols., Inc. v. Estate of Hunter, 479 S.W.3d 662, 665-66 (Mo. App. 2015).

         Analysis

         In her sole point on appeal, Kayden argues that the circuit court erred in granting Ford's Motion for Summary Judgment based upon the affirmative defense that Ford was Kayden's statutory employer and so was protected from civil liability by the Missouri Workers' Compensation Act because a direct negligence claim by an employee of an independent contractor against a statutory employer is not barred by the Missouri Workers' Compensation Act and, as Kayden's action was premised upon Ford's direct negligent act of creating a dangerous condition on its premises where Kayden worked, Ford was not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

         The basis of the circuit court's finding of summary judgment in favor of Ford was that Kayden was a statutory employee of Ford when she was injured and her exclusive remedy is the Missouri Workers' Compensation Act (the "Act"). At the time of Kayden's injury in 2010, the ...


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