Judge denies Renaissance Hotel's motion for judgment in case of security guard who tripped

By Nicholas Malfitano | May 4, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – A hotel’s motion for summary judgment against a security guard who was allegedly injured on its premises was recently denied by a federal judge.

The suit was filed in connection with injuries allegedly sustained by William Ames during his duties as a security guard stationed at a Renaissance Hotel three years ago.

On March 24, 2012, Ames was employed in that role by Imperial Security and assigned to guard the Renaissance Hotel, located near the Philadelphia International Airport in Essington.

Ames was allegedly injured when he tripped and fell on a concrete platform at night while taking old newspapers to a recycling bin outside the north side of the hotel.

Ames was carrying the newspapers in a shoulder-mounted bag, exited the door on the north side of the hotel and walked down a set of stairs, the suit says.

On the way to the recycling bin, Ames tripped over a concrete platform between three and four inches high and on which a dumpster was placed, allegedly suffering injuries to his wrist, hand, foot, ankle and back in the process.

Ames’ lawsuit claims he reported the incident to his employer and then transported himself to the Emergency Room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Disposing of the old newspapers, the suit says, was a regular task included in Ames’ duties as a guard for Imperial Security.

Subsequent to his injury, Ames filed a Workers’ Compensation claim against the Renaissance Hotel and collected $152,342.62.

The plaintiffs, William Ames and his wife April, initially filed claims for negligence and loss of consortium against the Renaissance Hotel, Renaissance Philadelphia Airport, Marriott International, Inc., Columbia Properties, LLC, Columbia Properties Philadelphia, LLC and Columbia Sussex Corporation, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in January 2014.

As the defendants are based in different states than the plaintiffs, the defense cited diversity of citizenship soon after the litigation was initially filed and had the case removed to federal court in February 2014. Marriott International, Inc. was also terminated as a defendant shortly afterwards.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in December, which led to the matter then coming before Judge Michael M. Baylson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

A main issue disputed in the litigation was whether Ames was familiar with the area where the accident occurred.

Ames maintains he had never been to the north side of the hotel in the course of his duties, whereas Renaissance’s contention is all areas of the hotel had been assigned for security guards to patrol, including the north side where the accident occurred. Ames and Renaissance also disagree on whether the area itself was properly lit and illuminated.

“In light of these disputes of material fact, summary judgment is not warranted as to Plaintiffs’ negligence claims,” Baylson stated in an opinion released April 29.

Further, the defense contended Ames’ employment fell under what is known as the “borrowed servants doctrine” – “where an employee is ‘loaned’ by an employer to a third party, who becomes the employee’s master and controls the employee’s conduct such that the employee is deemed to work for the third party.”

In that light, Renaissance believed Ames was an employee of its and his suit should be barred under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act.

“The parties dispute Defendants’ control over Mr. Ames’s work. Defendants contend that they controlled and directed the security guards at the property such that Mr. Ames should be deemed to have acted as a hotel employee,” Baylson wrote.

“Plaintiffs contend that management did not tell guards how to do their security work – the guards’ top priority – and only instructed them to perform other tasks to the extent they were available. Plaintiffs also contend Mr. Ames was employed by Imperial, who paid him, had final say over whether to terminate him, and instructed him to dress so as not to identify himself as a hotel employee.”

In the end, Baylson decided there was in fact no dispute Ames was an employee of Imperial Security and not Renaissance.

“Here, it is undisputed that Mr. Ames was legally an employee of Imperial, not Defendants, at the time of the incident,” Baylson opined.

“It is also undisputed that Imperial paid Mr. Ames, instructed him to dress in a uniform that did not identify him as a hotel employee, and had the sole power to terminate or replace him. It is also undisputed that, if Defendants had an issue with a guard, they would discuss the issue with Imperial and Imperial would handle it. These factors weigh in favor of a finding that the borrowed servant doctrine does not apply.”

Baylson ruled Renaissance did not satisfy the key criteria of the “borrowed servants doctrine” – whether it possessed the right to control the work and the manner of its performance – and thus, the doctrine did not apply in this case.

“Because there are disputes of material fact regarding Plaintiffs’ negligence claim and the application of the borrowed servant doctrine, the Court will deny Defendants’ motion for summary judgment,” Baylson stated.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $150,000 in this case, plus interest and costs of suit.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum and Jeffrey Paul Curry, of Rosenbaum & Associates in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by John T. Asher, III and George M. Vinci, Jr., of Spector Gadon & Rosen, P.C. also of Philadelphia.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-01253

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