HARRISBURG – The Superior Court has overturned a Philadelphia County order that found Aramark Healthcare Support Services was not subject to vicarious liability in connection with a Holy Redeemer Hospital nurse’s fall on a recently mopped scrub room floor.
Former Holy Redeemer Hospital operating room nurse Valerie Hodge appealed after the common pleas court entered a summary judgment in Aramark’s favor. The Superior Court said Dec. 5 that Aramark claimed that it was only responsible for consulting duties.
According to the Superior Court opinion, Hodge had already begun to fall when fill-in custodian Chuck Varga called out “Watch, the floor is wet.”
“Nurse Hodge suffered disabling back and head injuries that rendered her unable to return to work,” the Superior Court opinion said.
As a result, Hodge sued Aramark for negligence, alleging that it was “contractually responsible to Holy Redeemer Hospital for housekeeping services.”
Aramark claimed in its motion for summary judgment that its job was not to hire janitorial workers. The company said cleaning and mopping at the facility were done by hospital employees.
“Aramark contended that the possessor of land, in this case the hospital, owed the legal duty of care to protect nurse Hodge and others from dangerous conditions on the property of which it should have been aware,” the opinion said. “The hospital was not relieved of that duty by contracting with Aramark for management services, particularly when it retained control over the manner the work was performed by its employees.”
However, in her answer to the summary judgment motion, Hodge said “Varga was a borrowed servant of Aramark as that entity asserted control over the manner in which he performed his custodial duties.”
In fact, Hodge said Aramark was responsible for training and supervising the custodians at Holy Redeemer. In addition, Hodge noted that “Aramark’s director of environmental services disciplined Varga, mandated that he be in-serviced on safety procedures when performing wet floor tasks and used the incident to reinforce those procedures with the entire custodial staff.”
Although the lower court ruled that the custodian “was not a borrowed servant of Aramark” and that “nurse Hodge failed to proffer evidence that Aramark was negligent in its training of custodial employees regarding wet floor safety,” the Superior Court said in its opinion that it disagreed.