Domino’s Pizza not liable for delivery car accident, rules Maine Supreme Court

Domino’s Pizza is not vicariously liable for an automobile accident caused by a pizza deliveryman, the Maine Supreme Court has ruled.

A pizza deliveryman was in a car accident with a man on a motorcycle.

The motorcyclist sued the pizza store as well as Domino’s Pizza, which had franchised the store. He claimed that Domino’s was vicariously liable for the actions of the deliveryman.

Domino’s argued that under the terms of its franchise agreement, the pizza store was an independent contractor. The company also argued that it did not control – nor did it have the right to control – the deliveryman, who was an employee of its franchisee.

The court agreed.

Although the quality control requirements and minimum operational standards imposed by Domino’s upon its franchisees are numerous, “these controls fall short of reserving control over the performance of [the pizza store’s] day-to-day operations. … The agreement specifies that the supervision and operation is [the pizza store’s] ‘sole responsibility’ and that ‘it is not [Domino’s Pizza’s] responsibility or duty’ to implement employee training programs. …

“Moreover, though bound by certain mandated minimum requirements, [the pizza store]: (1) determines the wages it pays its employees; (2) determines the scheduling of its employees; and (3) makes all day-to-day decisions concerning hiring, firing, training, supervising, and disciplining its employees. Although Domino’s Pizza retains the right to conduct inspections and terminate the franchise relationship, such conditions do not constitute sufficient control to impose vicarious liability,” the court said.

It also noted that the pizza store was responsible for purchasing or leasing its own equipment and supplies, and was not compensated by Domino’s Pizza.

“[T]he quality, marketing, and operational standards present in the agreement and guide do not establish the supervisory control or right of control necessary to impose vicarious liability,” the court said.

Maine Supreme Court. Rainey v. Langen, No. 2010 ME 56. June 29, 2010.

Lawyers USA No. 993-2066.