Monday, August 19, 2019

Borrowed Servant Doctrine Addressed in Slip and Fall Case

In the case of Burrell v. Streamlight, Inc., No. 2016-CV-30144 (C.P. Montg. Co. May 9, 2019 Saltz, J.), the court addressed the borrowed servant doctrine and found that a Plaintiff was a worker who qualified as a borrowed servant such that the Defendant employer was immune from liability in a negligence cause of action because the worker had already received compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was affiliated with an employment recruiting agency.  That employment agency placed the Plaintiff as a temporary worker at the Defendant’s facility.   After working for a period at that facility, the Plaintiff was injured when he slipped and fell at work.  

The Plaintiff filed suit against the Defendant employer. The Defendant filed an Answer which contained a New Matter defense alleging that the claims by the Plaintiff were barred by the Worker’s Compensation Act.    The Defendant asserted that it was immune from negligence liability because the Plaintiff was either acting as its employee or was a borrowed servant.  

After discovery, the Defendant moved for summary judgment on the issues presented.  

The court noted a general rule that, when a worker sustains an injury at the work place, compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act was generally the exclusive remedy against the employer for a monetary recovery.  

Under the borrow servant doctrine, workers’ compensation immunity also applied to the true master when the servant had been loaned to another.   The test for determining whether a worker qualified as a borrowed servant was the right of control over the manner of the employee’s work.  

In this case, the court noted that, although the Plaintiff was initially hired by the temp agency, he worked under the control and supervision of the Defendant facility.   The Defendant facility trained the Plaintiff, set us schedule, and set the Plaintiff’s work duties.   In contrast, the temp agency only handled the payroll function, which the court considered to be peripheral.   The court also rejected the Plaintiff’s argument that the specific tasks he was performing at the time of his accident was not within his duties and, therefore, the borrowed servant doctrine should not be applied.    The court noted that there is evidence to the contrary, showing that the Plaintiff was either asked to perform the worker duty at issue or had volunteered to perform it.  

In light of all of the factors presented, the court found that the Plaintiff was indeed a borrowed servant and that the Defendant was therefore immune from liability under the Worker’s Compensation Act.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.”  Pennsylvania Law Weekly (June 4, 2019).

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