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Jorge Claudio v. Mgs Machine Corp

June 22, 2011

JORGE CLAUDIO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MGS MACHINE CORP.,
DEFENDANT,
v.
TASTY BAKING CO., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.Introduction

On February 14, 2008, Plaintiff Jorge Claudio ("Claudio" or "Plaintiff") injured his hand while operating a cake-packaging machine manufactured by Defendant MGS Machine Corporation ("MGS" or "Defendant") at a Tasty Baking Company ("TBC") plant. See Compl. ¶¶ 8, 11, 17, ECF No. 1. Claudio has brought suit against MGS alleging negligence, strict liability in tort, and breach of warranty. MGS has filed a third-party complaint against TBC, claiming that TBC should answer for any and all liability that may be entered against MGS by way of sole liability, joint and several liability, indemnity, and/or contribution. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.*fn1 TBC has moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it is immune from suit as Claudio‟s employer pursuant to the Pennsylvania Workers‟ Compensation Act. See 77 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 481 (West 2002). For the reasons set forth below, I will grant TBC‟s motion.

II.Background*fn2

In June of 2007, Claudio applied and was hired for a position with Accu Staffing Services ("Accu"), a temporary staffing service that places associates with accepted clients throughout southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. See Claudio Dep. 15:12-17, 39:16-20, Feb. 5, 2010, ECF No. 45; Coward Dep. 11:9-13, May 24, 2010, ECF No. 42. TBC is one such client of Accu, and on occasion requests temporary employees to fill positions at its plant. Coward Dep. 11:14-21; Godun Dep. 27:3-6, June 30, 2010, ECF No. 45. Shortly after hiring Claudio, Accu assigned him to work at TBC as a machine operator. See Mot. Summ. J. ¶ 6, ECF No. 42; Claudio Dep. 15:12-17, 39:16-20.

Before beginning work at TBC, Claudio watched a short training video at Accu, filmed at and approved by TBC. Claudio Dep. 41:11-17, 43:15-17; Godun Dep. 57:10-15. During his first week at TBC, Claudio shadowed and received guidance from a female TBC employee. Claudio Dep. 61:14-62:24, 63:11-64:14; Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 6, ECF No. 42. In later weeks, there was a "First Friday Safety Breaks" program; TBC provided the location and refreshments, and encouraged agency workers to spend their break reviewing safety topics and watching videos from the Accu library. Godun Dep. 34:1-35:24. As a general matter, TBC set safety regulations, which Accu distributed. Rasheed Dep. 10:4-10, June 11, 2010, ECF No. 42. Accu employees also occasionally visited the TBC plant to provide "initial training" and "cursory orientation." Coward Dep. 17:22-23.*fn3

While working at TBC, Claudio reported for duty to Syid Rasheed ("Rasheed"), an Accu employee. Claudio Dep. 54:11-15. Rasheed took attendance and reported the workers‟ hours to Accu for its payroll records. Mot. Summ J. ¶ 7; Rasheed Dep. 7:7-10:10; Claudio Dep. 54:11-15. Rasheed then told Claudio his floor assignment, which was determined by TBC. Claudio Dep. 45:20-46:1, 56:19-24; Godun Dep. 58:23-59:7; Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 8; Answer 14, ECF No. 45. Other than Rasheed, no one from Accu gave Claudio directions or orders during the course of the day. Claudio Dep. 69:20-24.

Claudio typically worked on the sixth floor of the TBC plant. Id. at 57:9-11. Eventually, Claudio received an identification card that read "Accu Staffing" but also bore a Tasty Kake logo. Id. at 48:23-49:1, 49:6-14. With the card, Claudio could swipe in at the sixth floor time clock. Id. at 49:23-50:2. TBC employees had different identification cards but swiped in using the same machine. Id. at 53:15-54:9.

On the sixth floor, TBC supervisor Linda Bartholomew ("Bartholomew") would describe to Claudio his daily duties. Id. at 57:1-5, 57:24-58:2. On occasion, Bartholomew changed Claudio‟s assignment, sending him to work on the fifth floor where he received subsequent instruction from another TBC employee, Billy. Id. at 57:6-58:21, 75:5-21. Normally, however, Bartholomew would give Claudio a specific job and assign him to a machine. Id. at 60:11-22. If Claudio ever had a problem with his assigned machine, he was to report back to Bartholomew. Id. at 63:1-10. If Bartholomew was not present, another TBC supervisor, Rose, would give Claudio this guidance. Id. at 68:4-16. In general, TBC supervisors demonstrated to Accu employees how to do the work, and could correct them when wrong. Id. at 127:21-128:8; Mr. Rasheed; whoever may have been in the position of authority at that particular time and that particular place."

Bartholomew Dep. 72:17-73:3, June 11, 2010, ECF No. 42. TBC supervisors also determined how long Accu employees spent on their tasks. Bartholomew Dep. 72:20-23.*fn4

Throughout the plant, Accu employees typically wore blue jumpsuits whereas TBC employees wore white uniforms with "Tasty Kake" written on them. Claudio Dep. 52:20-53:14. Both groups also wore brown jumpsuits on occasion, but the TBC employees‟ brown jumpsuit always bore a Tasty Kake logo. Id. at 55:6-24. TBC dictated what other clothing was acceptable while operating the machinery. Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 6; Claudio Dep. 123:3-125:4.

At all times material to this controversy, Accu paid Claudio. Mot. Summ. J. ¶ 8; Claudio Dep. 46:20-23. TBC could discipline Claudio in conjunction with Accu. Coward Dep. 128:19-129:6; see also Claudio Dep. 65:23-66:23; Reply 2, ECF No. 46.*fn5 TBC had the authority to end Claudio‟s assignment with TBC, at least in certain situations. Coward Dep. 125:7-20; Godun Dep. 60:4-24; see also Claudio Dep. 66:8-23.*fn6 At the same time, TBC coordinated such decisions with Accu. Coward Dep. 141:1-22; see also Godun Dep. 60:4-24.*fn7 TBC could not single-handedly terminate Claudio‟s employment with Accu; he would be terminated by Accu for cause, but TBC could play a role. Coward Dep. 125:20-21, 141:8-22; see also Reply 2.*fn8

On February 14, 2008, Claudio injured his hand at the TBC plant, while operating a cake-packaging machine manufactured by Defendant MGS. See Compl. ¶¶ 8, 11, 17. On March 12, 2008, Claudio filed a claim with the Bureau of Workers‟ Compensation against both TBC and Accu for the damages he sustained. Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 10; Mot. Summ J. Ex. I; id. Ex. J. In response, TBC filed an answer and, on March 27, 2008, wrote to the judge that TBC was not Claudio‟s employer. Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 10; Mot. Summ. J. Ex. H. Specifically, the letter read, "Most importantly, Jorge Claudio is not an employee of the Tasty Baking Company, but rather is employed by Accu Staffing . . . . Please accept this letter as a Motion to Dismiss the Tasty Baking Company from the Claim Petition litigation before you." Mot. Summ. J. Ex. H. On May 8, 2008, Claudio advised the judge that "Defendant/Employer [Accu Staffing] ha[d] accepted the claim" and requested that the court "please mark the Claim Petition withdrawn." Id. Ex. I. Pennsylvania Workers‟ Compensation Judge Marc I. Harrison then issued an order stating that "[t]he Claim Petition filed by Claimant on March 12, 2008 is WITHDRAWN based upon the representations of ...


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