Santiago v. Junk Busters, LLC
The existence of an employer-employee relationship is a threshold jurisdictional element that must be satisfied for a claimant to be entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. The claimant, Hayden Santiago, alleged that he was injured in a serious motor vehicle accident on June 29, 2009, while in the course of his employment with the respondent employer, Junk Busters, LLC. The respondent's owner and manager, Christopher Craven, testified that he no longer had a business relationship with the claimant after June 22, 2009, because the claimant had failed to perform some services requested by Craven and that Craven sent a text message to the claimant to that effect after Craven's calls went unanswered. Craven testified that he asked another individual to drive to a property to take some photographs for a bank client. For whatever reason, the claimant accompanied that individual and was injured in the motor vehicle accident. The claimant alleged that the accident must have occurred while he was working for Junk Busters because he would not have gone on the trip unless he was being paid for it. The trial commissioner concluded that there was no employer-employee relationship between the claimant and respondent on the relevant date. The claimant appealed. The Compensation Review Board affirmed the finding and dismissal. The burden of proof of an employer-employee relationship rested on the claimant. The trial commissioner's determination rested solely on the credibility he assigned to the testimony presented. The commissioner accorded greater credibility to the testimony of Craven than the testimony of the claimant. The board was not persuaded that the conclusion reached by the commissioner constituted error. Further the trial commissioner's failure to grant all corrections sought by the claimant in his motion to correct did not constitute legal error. The findings that the claimant sought to correct were either disputed, rooted in the credibility assigned by the commissioner or, even if granted, would not compel a different outcome.