Wellpath, LLC v. Cox

Court of Appeals Reverses Summary Judgment and Grants Motion to Withdraw Admissions


Plaintiff Joseph Cox sued Defendant Heather Lawrenz and Wellpath, LLC for damages after Defendant crashed into Plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff named Wellpath to the lawsuit arguing Wellpath was vicariously liable for Lawrenz’s alleged negligence because she was an employee of Wellpath and was acting in the course and scope of her employment at the time of the wreck. 

During discovery, Lawrenz was deposed and said she was a contractor for Wellpath and that she was driving her own vehicle at the time of the crash. Plaintiff served Wellpath with requests for admissions asking Wellpath to admit that, at the time of the collision, Lawrenz was an employee and/or agent of Wellpath. In response, Wellpath admitted. Wellpath also admitted that Lawrenz was an employee on the date of the collision, but denied she was acting in the course and scope of her employment. 

Plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the vicarious liability claim. Wellpath responded to the motion and attached the affidavit of Lawrenz’s supervisor who stated that Lawrenz was an independent contractor, under an independent contractor agreement, and that Wellpath did not control the time, manner, or method of her contractual duties. A copy of the independent contractor agreement was attached to the affidavit. Wellpath also filed a motion to withdraw its admissions as it was not a party to the case when Lawrenz was deposed and was unaware she was an independent contractor until they received a copy of her deposition and deposition exhibits. 

The trial court denied Wellpath’s motion to withdraw its admission and granted Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment. 


The issues in this case were:

  1. Whether the trial court properly denied Wellpath’s Motion to Withdraw its admissions. 
  2. Whether Wellpath exercised control over the time, method, and manner of Defendant’s work such that she should be considered an employee and not an independent contractor.

Reasoning & Holdings

1. Wellpath’s Motion to Withdraw its Admissions regarding Defendant’s employment status

Georgia trial courts use a two-pronged test when considering a motion to withdraw admissions. A Court may grant a motion to withdraw admissions (1) when the presentation of the merits will be subserved thereby and (2) the party obtaining the admission fails to satisfy the court that the withdrawal will prejudice maintaining his action or defense on the merits. Crowther v. Estate of Crowther, 258 Ga. App. 498, 500 (2002). To demonstrate that the merits of an action would be served by allowing withdrawal of admission, the moving party must show that the admitted requests either were refutable by admissible evidence having a modicum of credibility or were incredible on their face, and that the denial was not offered solely for the purposes of delay. Njoku v. Adeymi, 355 Ga App. 1, 3 (2020). 

In support of its motion, Wellpath argued that it was unaware at the time it made its admission that Defendant had executed an independent contractor agreement. In support of its motion, Wellpath also pointed to the affidavit of Defendant’s supervisor, who attested to the existence and validity of the independent contract. The trial court found that Wellpath’s argument and supportive evidence was not credible to overturn the admissions.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and held that the evidence provided by Wellpath met the “modicum of credibility” standard to withdraw the admission.

2. Whether Wellpath exercised control over the time, method, and manner of Defendant’s work such that she is an employee and not an independent contractor

An employer is generally not liable for the torts of an independent contractor. The test for determining whether an employer is exercising a degree of control over an independent contractor’s work such that the law will deem the contractor to be a servant of the employer is whether the contract gives, or the employer assumes, the right to control the time, manner, and method of the performance of the work.

Here, the Court of Appeals held that there was evidence to support a finding of both an independent contractor relationship and an employer-employee relationship. The Court of Appeals pointed to the fact that Defendant’s daily work and hours were left to her discretion, that she used her own vehicle, maintained insurance on her vehicle, and did not receive employee benefits as examples of evidence to support the independent contractor relationship. 

On the other hand, Defendant had to receive approval by Wellpath to work more than 40 hours per week, she only worked for Wellpath, and her job responsibilities included any other tasks or duties assigned by Wellpath. These, the Court of Appeals held, showed evidence of an employer-employee relationship.

As there was an issue of fact regarding Defendant’s employment status, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to Plaintiff on his claim that Wellpath was vicariously liable for Defendant’s alleged negligence. 


If you admit to a request for admission when you should have denied it, or vice versa, the procedure is to file a motion with the Court requesting to withdraw the admissions. Remember, you (the moving party) will have the burden of proving that the admitted requests should be withdrawn because of admissible evidence that refutes the admission or that the admissions were incredible on their face

Citation: Wellpath, LLC v. Cox, No. A23A1298 (Ga. Ct. App. January 10, 2024)

About the Author

Bill Daniel is a personal injury lawyer at The Champion Firm specializing in general personal injury including car accidents, premises liability and medical malpractice. Learn more about Bill's work with the firm here.