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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Overturns Slip-and-Fall Ruling Involving Vicarious Liability

A Philadelphia County Court had ruled that Aramark Healthcare Support Services was not vicariously liable when a nurse at Holy Redeemer Hospital fell on a recently mopped floor. Valerie Hodge, a nurse, had fallen on the wet floor at roughly the same time that Chuck Varga, a custodian, had yelled to warn her. She endured injuries to the back and neck and was not able to return to work. 

Hodge brought a negligence claim against Aramark because they had a contract for providing housekeeping services for the hospital at that time. Aramark stated that they functioned as a consultant to the hospital and did not hire janitorial staff, which was composed of hospital employees. On an appeal, the Superior Court reversed the decision and explained that Hodge had already begun her fall when Varga warned her of the floor’s condition.

Hodge apparently was attempting to retrieve supplies when suddenly her feet slipped out from beneath her. During her fall she heard a voice yelling to alert her that the floor was wet. Varga then called for assistance. Her claim stated that Aramark was responsible for a contract to maintain the floors throughout the hospital, or to supervise such activity. Hodge claimed to have slipped on a potential combination of water and cleaning solution that was left on the floor in a negligent manner. 

The claim alleged a failure in training, supervising and monitoring, as well as failing to have safe procedures established for floor cleaning. It asserted that there was no sign in place to warn of the condition or other means of preventing a fall. Aramark answered the claim denying liability, stating they did not owe a duty of care in this situation.

This is a personal injury case based on premises liability. Pennsylvania premises liability law makes an individual or entity that owns or controls property potentially responsible for injuries that occur. They may be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions that exist when they are aware of them. The possessor of the land owes a duty to reasonably protect those on the property from harmful conditions or to adequately warn them. The other concept involved is vicarious liability, which makes an employer liable for negligent actions of their employees which occur while acting in their role as an employee.

In this case, the plaintiff asserts that Varga was a “borrowed servant” performing work on behalf of Aramark at the time and operating under their supervision. Actually, Aramark management disciplined Varga following the accident by mandating he attend additional safety procedure training regarding wet floors. The lower court found he was not a borrowed servant and that Ms. Hodge did not prove how Aramark failed in their role of contracted consulting. On appeal, the Superior Court reversed this finding citing Aramark’s supervisory role, as well as responsibility for the equipment and safety involving floor care at the facility.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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