If my employer is sued, can i be held liable as an employee or a sub contractor
My employer (a marketing company) is being sued by a past customer of hers. The Plaintiff listed the owner of the company and 3 of her employees as defendants jointly and severally. I do not work there anymore and haven't for 4 years. I am one of the employees listed in the suit. I have never met or spoken with the plaintiff. I do not have any idea who the plaintiff is. I don't know if this makes a difference or not, but I worked for the company getting paid 1099 and them paid by W-2 before I was let go. There are a total of 9 counts that the Plaintiff listed out on the complaint. The owner is listed in all 9 counts and I am listed in 4 of the 9 counts. The Plaintiff is claiming the owner of the company committed fraud based on false representation. I am confused by the "jointly and severally" I was trying to learn about it and it looks like if the Plaintiff wins a judgement for $30,000 example, all of the defendants are liable to make the judgement whole. So if I am the only one with $30,000 I would have to pay it right? Does this work that way even though I am only listed in 4 of the 9 counts?
thank you for your time it is greatly appreciated!
4 attorney answers
In order to answer fully, I would need more facts. But regarding joint and several liability, you are correct that it means the plaintiff suing your employer is seeking recover all the damages from any of the defendants regardless of their individual share of the liability. The general rule for liability in Michigan, however, is that a defendant is severally liable for damages attributed to its percentage of fault. There are several exceptions to this rule, though, which could lead to the application of joint and several liability.
From the information you give, it also sounds as though the legal theory of "agency" is being brought into question. In other words: Were you in your capacity as an employee or independent contractor acting as an agent for the company? And also, were you acting within the scope of your employment when dealing with this customer? There are many other factors to consider, but... If you were an agent, and were acting within the scope of your employment, your chances of being held personally liable are less.
Since you are personally named, I strongly recommend that you hire an attorney to help you sift through all of the facts and determine a legal strategy to properly defend yourself.
Without looking at the complaint an attorney will have limited ability to help. It is not uncommon for plaintiffs to sue anyone and everyone who they can identify who has even a tangential relationship to the acts or omissions at issue. In most instances, if the plaintiff was a customer of the company, the plaintiff's recourse is going to be against the company, not the employees or independent contractors thereof. There may be an opportunity for an attorney to get you out of the case early, particularly if you have reason to believe you may be mis-identified as a defendant.
And yes, my colleague above laid out the basics of Michigan's predominant several liability structure.
Get an attorney.
Hi, thanks for your question.
I am agreeing with prior advice, and I just want to add that you need to act quickly. If you are listed as a defendant, and you have service of the complaint, you have 28 days from the date of service to respond to the complaint, or you may be defaulted.
Talk to an attorney quickly!
Also I have re-tagged this as a "lawsuits and disputes" question, to help you get more answers.
Best of luck to you!
Is this a “helpful” or a “best” answer? Please mark it if it was, and I hope it was! Thank you! Nancy L. Ballast is an attorney in west Michigan, with a practice centered on family law, estate planning, and property law. This legal answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. Grandrapidslaw.blogspot.com
Generally as an employee you are shielded against personal liability by the "corporate veil" of liability protection. Fraud may be one of the ways to pierce the corporate veil. Contact an attorney immediately.
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