In Painter v. Sandridge Energy, Inc., a Texas appellate court considered the death of two oil field employees and injuries to a third oil field employee. The workers were doing drilling on behalf of their employer, Amerimex. Amerimex was hired by Sandridge, which had a lease to drill wells at a ranch. The contract described Amerimex as an independent contractor but specified that the crew worked under Sandridge’s control, supervision, and direction. Sandridge was obligated to pay bonuses to the Amerimex employees so that they wouldn’t be hired away by other drillers. Sandridge had an on-site supervisor who stayed in a trailer.
The accident happened after the workers’ shift while they were driving to a bunkhouse 30-40 miles away owned by Amerimex. There was no requirement that the workers live in the bunkhouse or ride with their crew leader to and from the drilling site, but since the crew leader was the only one with a car, they did drive to and from the bunkhouse with him every day. The crew worked in shifts of seven days on and seven days off. While driving, the crew leader ran into the back of another car. Two of the employees were killed, and another was injured. Later, the crew leader testified that nobody at Sandridge gave him any driving instructions.
The decedents’ relatives and the surviving employee sued the other driver in the crash, Amerimex, and Sandridge, the owner of the oil and gas lease. Their petition alleged that Sandridge was responsible for the crew leader’s actions because it gave a financial incentive to the crew leader to transport them in his car. They alternatively alleged the crew leader was the agent of Sandridge due to a transportation bonus, or that he was a “borrowed servant” of Sandridge.
Continue reading →