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CIRO A. IANDIORIO v. KRISS & SENKO ENTERPRISES (11/17/86)

decided: November 17, 1986.

CIRO A. IANDIORIO, APPELLANT,
v.
KRISS & SENKO ENTERPRISES, INC., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of December 7, 1984 of the Superior Court at No. 1252 Pittsburgh 1982, affirming the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, at No. G.D. 80-01305, entered November 16, 1982. Pa. Super. , 488 A.2d 1169 (1985)

COUNSEL

Edwin H. Beachler, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Seymour A. Sikov, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen,*fn* Flaherty, Hutchinson, McDermott and Papadakos, JJ. Zappala, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Nix, C.j., filed a dissenting opinion. Flaherty, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, C.j., joins.

Author: Larsen

[ 512 Pa. Page 394]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The question for our consideration in this appeal is whether an employer who has instructed his employees to take their coffee breaks and to smoke in only one area of a job site may be held liable for injuries to a third party who entered the designated smoking area wearing gasoline drenched clothing and was burned when an employee struck a match to light a cigarette, and, specifically, whether the lower court erred in ruling, as a matter of law, that an employer cannot be held liable in such circumstances.

The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County granted appellee's motion for compulsory non-suit at the close of appellant's case on liability tried before a jury. A motion to strike the non-suit was denied by the trial court en banc, and the decision was appealed to the Superior Court. A panel of three Superior Court judges, in a memorandum opinion (per Rowley, J., DelSole, J., and Montgomery, JJ.), affirmed the denial. We granted appellant's petition for allowance of appeal, and we now reverse.

The lower court, reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to appellant, as it is required to do on a motion to take off a compulsory non-suit,*fn1 relied on the following facts which it set forth as follows:

[ 512 Pa. Page 395]

The Plaintiff, [appellant herein] Ciro A. Iandiorio, age 18 at the time of the events in question, commenced employment with the Robinson Petroleum Company in the spring of 1979, as a gasoline station attendant at a Mobil gasoline station operated on his employer's premises. Among the duties performed by Iandiorio included the pumping of gasoline for customers of the station utilizing the station's full service pumps and the collection of money from those patrons electing to make use of the station's self-service gasoline pumps (Tr. 20). The full service pumps were located on a cement "island" located closest to the station's physical structure while the self-service pumps were located on a separate "island" which was situated further away from the station building and closer to the highway which the station fronted. (Tr. 22).

Sometime in the beginning of June of 1979, construction began on the renovation of the station's structure in order to convert the same into a "7-Eleven" convenience store. The defendant, [appellee herein] Kriss and Senko Enterprises, Inc., was contracted by "7-Eleven" and not the Robinson Petroleum Company (Tr. 91) to perform the remodeling work at the subject station. During this period of construction, the full service pumps were shut down and the plaintiff's duties were to collect money from those patrons utilizing the self-service pumps. (Tr. 22).

On the morning of June 25, 1979, Iandiorio arrived at work at approximately 7:15 A.M., at which time he opened the station for business by unlocking the service bay doors and entering the garage structure which at the time had been virtually gutted by the remodeling work in process. [sic] Shortly after electronically turning the station's gasoline pumps on from inside the structure, Iandiorio looked out the station's window and discovered

[ 512 Pa. Page 396]

    that a customer at the self-service "island" was apparently experiencing some difficulty with the operation of one of the pumps (Tr. 25), whereupon the plaintiff went outside to the pumps in order to attempt to rectify the problem. While attempting to fix the nozzle of the malfunctioning pump, the plaintiff spilled gasoline onto the thigh area of his right leg, thereby saturating the clothing covering this area of his body. The gasoline spillage was apparently caused by the splitting of a hose of the subject pump about six inches down from the nozzle sometime during the preceding night. (Tr. 26).

According to Iandiorio, he thereupon went back into the station building whereupon he observed two brothers, one Michael Simon, an independent contractor hired by Kriss and Senko, and William Simon, an employee of Kriss and Senko, on a break near a desk which was located inside the building, where they were drinking coffee. (Tr. 28). Iandiorio further testified that upon entering the building, he advised both Simon brothers of the presence of gasoline upon his clothing. The plaintiff's evidence viewed in its most favorable light next discloses that notwithstanding his actual knowledge of the presence of gasoline upon Iandiorio's clothing, William Simon proceeded to light a cigarette while Iandiorio was standing only a few feet away as a result of which the plaintiff's clothing ignited and the plaintiff was seriously burned. The evidence further indicates that the above incident occurred during William Simon's scheduled working hours with defendant, Kriss and Senko.

Opinion and Order of Court at 1-3 (November 12, 1982).

The trial court's recitation of the facts omitted to include testimony by an officer (Mr. Raymond Michael Senko) of appellee Kriss and Senko Enterprises, Inc., which established the critical fact that appellee knew its employees smoked on the job and, recognizing the hazards of smoking in close proximity to gasoline, ordered its employees to take their coffee breaks and to smoke their cigarettes inside the

[ 512 Pa. Page 397]

    building where the accident occurred. Notes of Testimony, March 15, 16, 1982, at 92-95, 98-99.

This fact is critical to the dispute in this case because of the line drawn under the doctrine of respondeat superior between mere permission given employees to perform personal acts during the workday and a more active control on the part of the employer over its employees' personal acts. The general principles of the applicable law are stated in Comment c. to Section 229 of the Restatement (Second) of Agency, which provides:

     c. Acts of a personal nature. Although the servant is authorized to act, the master is not liable for his conduct unless the servant is in fact acting in the employment and for his master's purposes. Getting ready to work or clearing away after work may be within the scope of employment. So, even such personal matters as eating and cleaning of the person may be so much a part of the work and under such control that it is part of the employment. This is true if the master assumes control over the general conduct of the servant during such period. If, however, such acts are for the personal convenience of the employees and are merely permitted by the master in order to make the employment more desirable, the acts are not within the scope of employment. As in other situations, the fact that the acts are done upon the master's premises or with his instrumentalities is important but not conclusive.

Illustrations:

8. P, an engraver, requires all servants employed in finishing work to wash their hands in his wash room before beginning work. The washing of hands by the employees as part of ...


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