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Boissonnault v. Bristol Federated Church
New Hampshire Supreme Court
642 A.2d 328 (1994)
Elizabeth Seeler was an accountant who served as a volunteer at Bristol Federated Church (Bristol) (defendant). One day, while Seeler was on her way to give financial documents to Bristol’s treasurer, she had a car accident and collided with Luc Boissonnault (plaintiff), who was riding a motorcycle. Boissonnault suffered permanent damage and sued the church under a theory of respondeat superior. Boissonnault argued that Seeler was an employee of the church and that Bristol was vicariously liable for Seeler’s alleged negligent actions. Bristol filed a motion for summary judgment, which a trial court granted. Considering all the factors in Restatement (Second) of Agency § 220, the trial judge found that Seeler was an independent contractor and not an employee and that Bristol did not have the right to control how Seeler carried out assigned tasks. Boissonnault appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which assessed the case according to its expansive view of what criteria qualified a person as an employee, potentially subjecting an employer to vicarious liability for the employee’s negligent actions, and whether those criteria were applicable to volunteers. Although New Hampshire courts used to determine whether a person was an employee or an independent contractor based on an employer’s measure of control over the person, the New Hampshire Supreme Court had adopted a view that an assessment based on the totality of the circumstances was required. The assessment provided that a person was an employee if the community viewed that person as an employee considering a variety of factors, including those set forth in Restatement (Second) of Agency § 220.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Batchelder, J.)
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