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Borrowed Employee Doctrine Prevents Negligence Plaintiff's Recovery (PA)

November 12, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">On November 7, 2019, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Streamlight, Inc on the grounds that the plaintiff's action was barred by Section 303(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, 77 P.S. 481(a).  The case of<em> <a href="">Burrell v. Streamlight</a></em> arises out of a work-place accident in which plaintiff fell while disposing of trash during the course of his employment .  Burrell had been a temporary worker hired by Aerotek, Inc., a recruiting agency, and was assigned to work for Streamlight in a temporary capacity.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Burrell filed a complaint in Montgomery County against Streamlight alleging his injuries were caused by a dangerous condition in Streamlight’s facility.  In its answer, Streamlight pled that it was immune from suit under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  Following the close of discovery, Streamlight filed a motion for summary judgment on two grounds: (1) it was immune from tort liability under the Workers Compensation Act; and (2) that Burrell could not prove negligence.  The trial court granted Streamlight’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that Burrell was Streamlight’s employee under the borrowed employee doctrine.  Following this decision, Burrell appealed.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On appeal, the Superior Court reviewed a contract between Aerotek and Streamlight which stated Burrell was paid by Aerotek and that all personnel supplied by Aerotek were employees of Aerotek, not Streamlight.  Aerotek was also responsible for withholding taxes from Burrell and providing workers’ compensation insurance.  However, the contract also stated that all work would be performed on Streamlight’s premises under the supervision of Streamlight employees.  Streamlight also had the authority to fire Burrell.  At his deposition, Burrell testified that Streamlight set all of his hours, job duties and interviewed him prior to his employment.  Burrell also testified that all of his day-to-day activities were controlled by Streamlight and he had no significant interactions with Aerotek employees while working for Streamlight.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Under the borrowed employee doctrine, where a worker employed by one company is furnished to another to perform work, the latter company is his employer under the Workers’ Compensation Act if it has the right to control his work and the manner in which it is performed.  Here, the Court ruled that there was no conflict or ambiguity in the evidence that Burrell was an employee of Streamlight for Workers Compensation Act purposes.  Streamlight directed and controlled Burrell’s work and the manner in which it was performed which is all that is required under the borrowed employee doctrine.  Thus, the PA Superior Court affirmed the entry of summary judgment.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Garrett Gittler for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.</p>


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