Lawyers representing the storage business U-Haul are moving to transfer a workplace
injury suit that was filed earlier this month at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas from that venue to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
U-Haul’s attorneys argue in their Feb. 20 filing that the case remains in the federal court system because there is diversity in citizenship among the parties and because the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limit in a Pennsylvania court.
However, U-Haul also claims that U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania and Falls Manufacturing Co. are fraudulently joined parties to the litigation, because, as the defense lawyers argue, any civil claims against the companies are barred by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
Any such claims are supposedly barred by the “borrowed servant” doctrine and the exclusivity provisions of the commonwealth’s Workers’ Compensation Act, the defense lawyers wrote in their petition for removal.
The case has to do with allegations brought by Philadelphia resident Eldridge Salley that he became injured on March 1 of last year after he was struck by a falling crane at a U-Haul factory in Fairless Hills, Pa.
Attorney Justin M. Bieber filed suit on Salley’s behalf on Feb. 1 at Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia alleging claims of negligence and carelessness against the four defendants: Amerco, U-Haul International Inc., U-Haul Co. and Falls Manufacturing Co.
Salley had been an employee of Falls Manufacturing at the time, which is a division of U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania.
As a result of the incident with the crane, the complaint alleges, Salley sustained injuries including spinal cord fractures, disc injuries, sprains and strains, and other physical problems.
Salley has needed surgical intervention and additional medical care, all of which has required him to spend a large amount of money, his suit asserts.
According to the defendants’ petition for removal, Salley had technically been an employee of the temporary staffing agency Centrix Staffing at the time of the worksite incident, and the work he performed in the course of his duties was directed and controlled by U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania.
The petition goes on to contend that both U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania and Falls Manufacturing Co. were fraudulently joined to the litigation.
Only after considering the properly joined defendants, U-Haul International Inc. and Amerco, can the plaintiff’s complaint be properly removed to the federal courthouse, the petition reads.
As for the contention that U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania and Falls Manufacturing were fraudulently joined to the litigation because the claims against the two are barred by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the defense attorneys cite the following from the “borrowed servant” doctrine: “It is also based on the clear intent of [the] Pennsylvania legislature that the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act … provide for the sole and exclusive means of recovery for injuries occurring within the scope of employment.”
The lawyers wrote that Salley was, under the law, a “borrowed servant” of U-Haul Co. of Pennsylvania and Falls Manufacturing at the time of the alleged injury, since he was technically an employee of Centrix Staffing at the time of his injury.
“As a result, Plaintiff was the ‘borrowed servant’ of these Defendants and they are thus protected from suit for this work-related accident and injuries by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act,” the petition for removal states.
The petition was signed by Post & Schell lawyer Richard B. Wickersham, Jr.