Opinion:Hayes v. Logisticare Solution, 2021 OK CIV APP 38
Subject matter:Agency; Negligent Hiring; Inherently Dangerous Activities
Date Decided:September 2, 2021
Trial Court:District Court of Rogers County; Judge Condren
Route to this Court:Summary Judgment granted to Logisticare; Hayes appealed; case assigned to Division I of the Court of Civil Appeals
Facts:SoonerRide is a state-wide, non-emergency transportation benefit available to members of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare. In 2018, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority awarded LogistiCare a contract to administer the SoonerRide program on its behalf. SoonerCare participants request transportation through LogistiCare, and LogistiCare assigns the job to a local third-party transportation provider. Morgan Medical is one of LogistiCare’s contracted transportation providers.Moyer was involved in an accident on February 24, 2018 while being transported by Nicholas Decamp, a driver for Morgan Medical. Decamp allegedly drove the vehicle without ensuring Moyer was belted into her wheelchair. During the trip, he braked suddenly, causing Moyer to fall out of her chair and break her leg. He transported her to the hospital, where she died thirty days later of “respiratory failure due to volume overload and pneumonia” with multiple contributing factors. Hayes, as special administrator of Moyer’s estate, brought an action against Decamp, Morgan Medical, and LogistiCare seeking recovery for her wrongful death. The petition lists three alternative theories of liability against LogistiCare. First, Hayes alleged LogistiCare was liable because Morgan Medical and Decamp were its agents. Second, he claimed LogistiCare was liable for its negligence in hiring Morgan Medical. Finally, he argued LogistiCare was liable because the work performed was inherently dangerous. The parties filed competing summary judgment motions, and the trial court granted summary judgment to Logisticare. 
Standard of Review:De novo. 
Analysis:The court erred by granting summary judgment to LogistiCare on Hayes’ alternative theory, that even if Morgan Medical is an independent contractor, LogistiCare is responsible for its actions because the work is inherently dangerous. Under this doctrine, an employer engaged in an inherently dangerous activity “has a duty to anticipate and guard against events which may reasonably be expected to occur because of the”inherently dangerous nature of the industry” and “cannot avoid liability for breach of this duty by delegating it to an independent contractor.” The trial court incompletely framed the issue. The inherently dangerous activity doctrine “is sufficiently comprehensive to include not only work, which from its description is ‘inherently’ or ‘intrinsically dangerous,’ but also work which will in the ordinary course of events cause injury to others if certain precautions are omitted, but which may as a general rule be executed with safety if those precautions are taken.” Transporting Medicaid patients to their appointments may not be “inherently” or “intrinsically” dangerous. However, the trial court must also consider whether the risk that physical injury to a wheelchair patient would occur “in the ordinary course of events” of transporting Medicaid patients if seat belt precautions are omitted is one LogistiCare should recognize.The trial court erred by failing to consider the second kind of inherently dangerous activity — that is, work which creates a peculiar risk of physical harm if special precautions are not taken. 
Outcome:Affirmed in part; reversed in part; remanded. 
Vote:Mitchel, J. (author); Goree, P.J., and Bell, J. (sitting by designation) concur. 
Other: No cert. pet. filed.