In the aviation, we often hear the category of an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic or Inspection Authorizations (IA) referred to as an independent contractor. The principle is not liable for the acts of an independent contractor as a general rule. The independent contractor is one who in essence controls the manner in which the work is accomplished as in the case of an FBO hiring a workman to perform a job. The FBO contract with him/her to accomplish a certain task; for example, painting a hangar. The FBO does not direct how the job is to be done, and furnishes no equipment. He pays the person for the job, not by the hour etc. These are classis elements of the independent contractor status.
There are several elements to this relationship that the courts looks to in deciding if an independent contractor relationship has been created.
1. Extend of control which the principle exercises over the details of the work.
2. Was the party employed, engaged in a distinct occupation or business; do they have a business of their own away from the business of the party by whom he was engaged.
3. The degree of skill required for the performance of work in relation to that in the same field possessed by the employer.
4. Whether the employer or workman supplies the place of work and equipment with which to do the work.
5. How the person is employed, by the hour, day, or job. Hourly or daily employment generally indicates and agency relationship.
6. Employer’s freedom to discharge employee. Contractor cannot generally be discharged before completion of the contract without incurring liability to pay for the entire job minus off for portion not completed.
None of these factors is decisive in itself. They must all be considered in determining the status of the person whose status is in question.
As previously stated, one who employs an independent contractor is not liable of injuries caused to third parties by such contractor. This rule is persuasive with some exceptions. The rule is based on the fact that negligence for hazardous undertakings cannot be delegated.
Another non-delegable duty is that which might arise from statutory authority. The certification of airworthiness is required by statue under Title 49 U.S. Code. One cannot employ another to conduct an inspection for him/her as an independent contractor and escape liability for the inspector’s negligence if the employer is the one certifying airworthiness (signing the record entry statement for return to service).
For the above reason it is import for every A&P and IA to have a written contract for services they perform as an independent aviation mechanic for private owners and their aircraft. It is sad the days of a handshake and word of mouth are over for us mechanics. We are now being forced to have liability insurance and written contracts to protect our livelihood.
As I am not an aviation lawyer I cannot provide legal advice, but if you have an issue or question it is always best to contact an aviation lawyer than be sorry later.