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Niday v. Roehl Transport, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

MIKE MARION NIDAY, Petitioner-Appellant,
ROEHL TRANSPORT, INC., Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott, Judge.

         An injured worker appeals the district court order finding the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission had no jurisdiction to award benefits. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Joseph S. Powell of Thomas J. Reilly Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Lee P. Hook and Tyler S. Smith of Peddicord Wharton, LLP, West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ, but Decided by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          Tabor, Judge.

         We must decide if a truck driver injured outside of Iowa is entitled to workers' compensation benefits under Iowa Code section 85.71(1)(b) (2014). The key question is whether the "contract of hire" between employer Roehl Transport, Inc. (Roehl) and employee Mike Niday was "made in this state." Because the parties assented to all terms of the contract while Niday was in Iowa, his claim met the requirement of territorial jurisdiction under the statute. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's judicial review decision and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In his mid-50s and looking for a career change, Niday enrolled in classes at Indian Hills Community College to earn his commercial driver's license (CDL). He worked as a supply-chain manager for Liguria Foods in Humboldt and attended weekend classes in the spring of 2013. On campus, Niday noticed posters advertising employment opportunities with Roehl.

         Roehl is a nationwide trucking company with operating authority in forty-eight states-including Iowa. The company is headquartered in Marshfield, Wisconsin and has nine terminals in seven states-Wisconsin, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, California, Arizona, and Michigan. Roehl also has drop yards[1] across the country, though it has none in Iowa.

         The posters sparked Niday's interest, so he asked one of his instructors if Roehl was a good employer. Because the instructor had positive views of the company, Niday decided to apply for a truck-driver position through Roehl's website after he earned his CDL in May 2013. Roehl receives applications from all over the country and reviews them at its corporate headquarters in Wisconsin.

         Shortly after applying, Niday received a written notice from Roehl recruiter Alice Farvour-Smith congratulating him for passing Roehl's initial screening process. The notice advised Niday to call Farvour-Smith within two days if he was interested in progressing to the next steps of the hiring process. Before Niday had a chance to contact Farvour-Smith, she called to discuss employment with Roehl. Niday was on the job at Liguria Foods in Humboldt when he received Farvour-Smith's phone call. Niday testified:

[They] said they had received my online application and would like to discuss me com[ing] to work for them.
I don't remember verbatim, but I do remember that we discussed the divisions they had, flatbed, dry van, reefer, and I chose the flatbed division. They have different subdivisions, Midwest regional, national, and of course there's different pay packages. We discussed that. I told them I'd like to accept the Midwest regional, have a little more home time.

         On May 10, Farvour-Smith followed up with a letter mailed to Niday's Dakota City, Iowa home. The letter began: "Congratulations! Based on the information we've received so far, I'm pleased to inform you that you qualify for a driving position with TeamRoehl." The letter advised Niday the employment offer was "conditional" based on (1) the continued accuracy of the information he provided in his application, (2) successful completion of a "pre-work screening" to ensure Niday could meet the physical demands of the job, (3) passage of a pre-employment drug screen, and (4) successful completion of "all the requirements" of Roehl's "Safety and Job Skills Program." The letter then described the two phases of Roehl's training program-phase one consisted of classroom work, followed by a preliminary test; phase two involved over-the-road experience with another driver, followed by a final driving test. Additionally, the letter confirmed the specific position and associated pay Niday and Farvour-Smith discussed in their earlier phone conversation.

         The letter instructed Niday to await a call from a Roehl representative in the next twenty-four hours to arrange a Department of Transportation medical examination, after which Roehl would schedule Niday's orientation. The letter promised Roehl would provide transportation to the designated phase-one training facility, as well as lodging and meals on phase-one training days. The letter concluded: "Again, congratulations on qualifying for this conditional offer of employment. You've completed the first steps toward a rewarding career at Roehl . . . ."

         Niday provided Liguria Foods two weeks' notice of his intent to leave his job as supply-chain manager. Roehl arranged for Niday to pick up a rental car in Des Moines on June 1 and directed him to report to Marshfield, Wisconsin for orientation beginning June 3. In Marshfield, Niday completed an "application addendum" supplementing his initial application from May 8 and underwent a drug test. The following day, Niday reported to Roehl's Gary, Indiana terminal for classroom training.

         On June 10, Niday completed the phase-one classroom training and passed the preliminary driving test. Roehl identifies that day as Niday's hiring date, despite the fact he had yet to complete the second phase of training and Farvour-Smith's May 10 letter conditioned his employment offer on completion of "all requirements of [the] Safety and Job Skills Program."

         For the second phase, Roehl paired Niday with a trainer who observed him drive the trainer's truck "all over the United States." After this on-the-road training, Niday returned to Indiana for the final driving test. Niday testified an instructor informed Niday he passed the test and assigned him a fleet manager.[2] Niday's fleet manager, Gina Sanders, directed him to pick up a truck from Roehl's maintenance shop in Gary. Niday retrieved the truck and returned home to Iowa, set to begin driving solo routes for Roehl.

         While working for Roehl, Niday received his load assignments through the computer in his truck. When he accepted an assignment, Roehl sent Niday directions to the pick-up site. Niday would drive to the vendor, load the goods into his truck, and inform Roehl once the goods were secured so Roehl could send directions to the destination. In his deposition, Niday testified the pick-up locations varied based on his location at a given time:

About every time I left my home I would have a run out of Iowa, because [Roehl] always tried minimizing your deadhead miles when you're not carrying freight. So Monday mornings that I would leave, it was generally a run located out of Iowa.
And then from there it just depended on where I dropped, and they would give me a close pickup to run from there. But most of my runs when I left home [were] out of the Iowa area.

         Of the seventy-three assignments Niday completed for Roehl, twenty-five were either picked up from ...

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