Court of Appeal Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Farmers Insurance on Independent Contract Issue

by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

On July 11, 2013, the Second Appellate District in Beaumont-Jacques v. Farmers Group Inc. concluded as a matter of law that a worker’s ability to exercise meaningful discretion in her job-related efforts rendered her an independent contractor, regardless of Farmers’ input regarding the “quality and direction of her efforts.”  The court held that Farmers did not exercise the “control of the details” of the appellant worker’s efforts necessary to create an employer/ employee relationship.  As discussed below, the court held that the key consideration was the right to control the manner and means of how the worker performed her duties.  The court further held that summary judgment was proper notwithstanding that some of the minor elements of the independent contractor test arguably supported an employer/employee relationship.

Basic Facts

Appellant Erin Beaumont-Jacques was a district manager for five affiliated insurers, and trained agents to market those insurers’ products.  Appellant could represent the five insurers and Farmers, Group, Inc. (collectively, “Farmers”) only.  The District Manager Appointment Agreement (“DMAA”) between the parties governed the terms of their relationship.  Appellant voluntarily terminated her relationship with Farmers in 2009, pursuant to the DMAA.  Thereafter, she filed suit against Farmers alleging breach of contract, breach of implied covenant, sex discrimination, and violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200.  Farmers then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  Appellant appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing inter alia that whether she was an employee of Farmers was a question of fact.

The Court’s Analysis

The court disagreed with Appellant.  In assessing her arguments, the court stated that “the existence of an employment relationship… can be decided by the court as a matter of law if the evidence supports only one reasonable conclusion.”  Summary judgment would be proper if the relevant factors, weighed and considered as a whole, established that Appellant was an Independent Contractor – even if one or two factors weighed against such a determination.  The “pivotal inquiry,” as established by several decades-old cases the court cited, was whether Farmers had “the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired.”  So long as Appellant exercised discretion in the manner and means of fulfilling her duties, Farmers could retain “broad general power of supervision and control as to the results of the work … without changing the relationship from that of owner and independent contractor.”

In applying the “manner and means” test, the court compared the parties’ relationship to those in two similar cases where Independent Contractor relationships were found, Mission Ins. Co v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. and  Millsap v. Federal Express Corp.  Both cases involved a principal that established work quality standards but did not control the “manner in which the desired result was to be achieved.”  Further, both cases involved an express agreement between the parties that the relationship would be that of an Independent Contractor, which the court stated “should not be lightly disregarded when both parties have performed under the contract.”  The court held that, just as in Mission and Millsap, Appellant exercised meaningful discretion over manner and means by, for instance, recruiting agents, setting her own hours and vacations, hiring and supervising staff, and paying for her own marketing and office costs.  Moreover, the DMAA expressly provided that there was no employer/employee relationship.  Appellant herself testified in deposition that she understood she was an Independent Contractor when she signed the DMAA.

The court rejected Appellant’s argument that Farmers controlled the manner and means of her efforts simply because Farmers required her to conform to Farmers’ “normal business practice,” “goals and objectives,” and “performance standards.”  None of these documents stated anything about the manner in which Farmers expected Appellant to comply with standards.  Rather, the documents were “classic example[s] of setting of results while leaving the means to the Appellant.”  Farmers exercised no control over the time when, the place where, or the manner in which Appellant was to operate in carrying out the objectives of the DMAA, provided only that they conform to “normal business practice” and applicable law.   Nor was the court persuaded by Appellant’s contention that Farmers’ right to discharge her created an employer/employee relationship.  Appellant voluntarily resigned, confirming a mutual right to terminate the relationship, which demonstrated an “association, rather than the relation of employer and employee.”

Reviewing the above factors that had been established in decades-old case law, the court affirmed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Farmers.  Finding that Appellant was an Independent Contractor, the court stated that, as a matter of law, none of Appellant’s causes of action were viable because she was not an employee of Farmers.

Why the Decision is Meaningful

The case cites to various decisions that are all more than 20 years old to support the conclusion, but it does seem to provide some helpful support if you are ever arguing for summary judgment in an independent contractor misclassification case. Furthermore, the case reiterated an important point that even where a few of the many factors that are considered in determining independent contractor status point toward an employment relationship, the defendant can still win summary judgment if the court concludes, after considering all the factors, that no reasonable jury weighing the evidence could conclude that the totality of the factors supports employee status. As such, this would seem to be a key case to cite in any summary judgment motion over independent contractor status.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.