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Industrial Commission v. Navajo County

Supreme Court of Arizona

March 18, 1946

INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION
v.
NAVAJO COUNTY et al

Original proceeding by the Industrial Commission of Arizona against the County of Navajo, a subdivision of the State of Arizona, and a body corporate and politic, and others, to require respondents to report salaries, wages, commissions, or fees paid to physicians under contract with county to render medical aid and perform surgery for indigent sick within the county and to pay to State Compensation Fund required insurance premiums thereon.

Alternative writ made peremptory.

H. S. McCluskey, of Phoenix, for petitioner.

Dodd L. Greer, Co. Atty. of Navajo County, of Holbrook, for respondents.

LaPrade, Judge. Stanford, C. J., and Morgan, J., concurring.

OPINION

LaPrade, Judge.

Page 114

[64 Ariz. 174] An alternative writ was issued directed to the respondents in the caption, supra, directing them to report the salaries, wages, commissions, or fees paid to contract county doctors, and to pay the required premiums thereon or show cause why they had not done so.

Subsequent to the 6th day of August, 1945, the board instructed its clerk not to report to the Industrial Commission salaries of doctors under contract. The commission demanded that the respondents comply with the provisions of Section 56-935 (Compensation Law) and Section 56-1227 (Occupational Disease Disability Law), A.C.A.1939, as amended and supplemented. This request was denied. Respondents [64 Ariz. 175] justified their refusal to pay insurance premiums to petitioner on the salaries of physician-surgeons upon the ground that such physician-surgeons are not employees, but independent contractors whose professional services are not supervised or controlled by respondents in any manner or to any extent whatsoever.

The question for this court to decide is whether or not under the facts of this case insurance premiums are due petitioner upon the salaries of such doctors. The contracts show that the doctors are under contract with respondent county to render medical aid or when necessary perform surgery for the indigent sick within the county. It is made to appear that in the performance of their duties under the contract the doctors are not supervised or controlled by the respondents in the ministration of medicines, treatment and surgery. The respondent supervisors are lay individuals and do not pretend to have any knowledge or skill in medicine or surgery. These doctors in the performance of their duties bring not only their best skill but the right to exercise it in accordance with their own best judgment without interference from any person; in fact, such is their duty because of their special skill, ability and technical training. They use their own judgment in the treatment of patients whose welfare is entrusted to them. Some of the contracts required the doctor at his own expense to furnish "ordinary medicine," and specified that if medicines "other than ordinary drugs and medicines are used they shall be ordered directly from a drug store and paid for by the board upon itemized demand." It was contemplated that the doctors would furnish their own offices, office help, and nurses. The professional services were to be rendered patients at the doctors' offices or at the homes of patients when the exigencies of the situation required the attendance of the doctor.

The powers and duties of respondent board of supervisors at all the times material hereto were the following:

"Sec. 17-309. (A.C.A.1939) 5. Provide for the care and maintenance of the indigent, sick and the dependent poor of the county; erect and maintain homes and hospitals therefor; provide in their discretion a farm in connection with the county hospital and make regulations for working the same."

"Sec. 17-346. Care of indigents -- Employees therefor. -- The board shall let the care of the indigents of the county, including

Page 115

medical attendance, medicine, food, lodging, clothing, and other supplies, to the best responsible bidder, after advertising for sealed bids or proposals in a newspaper and a notice posted in three (3) or more public places in such county, at least ten (10) days before the awarding of such contract. The board may reject any or all bids. The board may, however, employ a physician to furnish surgical and medical attendance, a superintendent, attendants, and such other help as may be [64 Ariz. 176] necessary without advertising therefor. (Laws 1909, ch. 3, §§ 1, 2, p. 4; R.S.1913, Secs. 2481, 2482; cons. & rev. R.C.1928, § 811; Laws 1929, ch. 33, § 2, p. 76.)"

"Sec. 17-347. Contractor to give bond -- Contract. -- The person to whom such contract may be awarded shall give to such county a bond of not less than five thousand dollars ($ 5,000), for the faithful performance of such contract, to be approved by the board. The contract shall specify distinctly the amount proposed to be charged for each day's attendance upon each indigent sick person, including medical attendance, medicine, food, lodging, clothing and ...


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