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Aero Service Corp. v. Gordy

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle County

November 15, 1954

AERO SERVICE CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
E. S. GORDY and Gordy Homes, Inc., a Delaware corporation, Defendants.

Suit by independent contractor for breach of contract for aerial survey and topographic mapping. Defendant interposed plea that action was barred by statute of limitations and plaintiff moved to strike plea. The Superior Court held that statute of limitations providing that actions for recovery of wages, salaries or overtime for work, labor or personal services performed, be brought within one year from date cause of action accrued did not apply to and did not bar such action by independent contractor, the applicable statute being that governing actions to recover debts and actions based on promises.

Motion to strike granted.

" Wages, salary and overtime" are definitions of kind of financial compensation paid, not to independent contractor, but rather to worker in master and servant relationship or to salaried employee.

Page 394

Plaintiff corporation sued defendant for breach of a contract for an aerial survey and topographic mapping of a site known as Belvedere Woods in or near Aiken, South Carolina. The suit having been commenced more than a year after the plaintiff made its claim for compensation, defendant interposed the plea of the Statute of Limitations of one year as provided in Title 10, § 8110, Delaware Code, which reads:

‘ No action for recovery upon a claim for wages, salary, or overtime for work, labor or personal services performed, or for damages (actual, compensatory or punitive, liquidated or otherwise), or for interest or penalties resulting from the failure to pay any such claim, or for any other benefits arising from such work, labor or personal services performed or in connection with any such action, shall be brought after the expiration of 1 year from the accruing of the cause of action on which such action is based.’

Plaintiff takes the position that Title 10, § 8106, a three year Statute of Limitations, governing (among other things) actions to recover debts and actions based on promises, not § 8110, is the applicable Statute.

John T. Gallagher (of Morris, Steel, Nichols & Arsht), Wilmington, Del. for plaintiff.

David S. Keil, Keil & Keil, Wilmington, Del., for defendants.

[49 Del. 61] LAYTON, Judge.

It is tacitly conceded by defendant that the plaintiff was acting in the capacity of an independent contractor. Defendant also admits that unless the nature of the services performed by plaintiff under the contract in question were ‘ personal services' within the meaning of § 8110, the plea of the Statute of Limitations cannot prevail.

It is clear to me that § 8110 was not designed to apply to the instant case. The very language of the section demonstrates that it has reference to the claims of servants, or members of the laboring classes and salaried employees. This is so because the kind of financial compensation or pay referred to is defined as ‘ * * * wages, salary, or overtime * * *.’ It takes no citation of authority to conclude that wages, salary and overtime are definitions of the kind of financial compensation paid, not to the independent contractor, but rather to the worker in the master and servant relationship or to salaried employee.

Defendant has bolstered its argument by the expedient of lifting the words ‘ personal services' out of context and citing certain cases[1] which, in the loose sense of the word refer to the work of an independent contractor as services. But the words ‘ personal services' as they appear in § 8110 must be read in connection with the language of the entire section in order to ascertain their true meaning and, when so done, the conclusion must be as above stated.

It is probably true, as plaintiff's counsel argues, that § 8110 was designed to provide a Statute of Limitations for actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq., with particular reference to litigation growing out of the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co.,328 U.S. 680, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 90 L.Ed. 1515, the famous portal-to-portal decision. However, [49 Del. 62] it appears too clear ...


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