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Ames v. Columbia Properties Philadelphia, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 29, 2015



MICHAEL M. BAYLSON, District Judge.

In this premises-liability negligence action, Defendants Columbia Properties Philadelphia, LLC, Columbia Sussex Corporation, and Renaissance Philadelphia[1] move for summary judgment (ECF 13) on Plaintiffs William and April Ann Ames' personal injury and loss of consortium claims stemming from an incident in which Mr. Ames, working as a security guard for a third-party security company and posted at Defendants' hotel, tripped and fell while disposing of old newspapers on hotel premises.

Defendants argue that they owed no duty to Mr. Ames because Plaintiffs have failed to show that Defendants were on notice of a possibly dangerous condition in the area where Mr. Ames's injury occurred and that Mr. Ames was aware it was dark outside but proceeded anyway. Alternatively, Defendants contend that Mr. Ames should be deemed an employee of Defendants under the "borrowed servant doctrine" and, accordingly, that Plaintiffs should be precluded from recovery under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, 77 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1 et seq., which bars tort actions that arise from any work-related activity.

Plaintiffs argue that Defendants, as owners of the premises, owed a duty to Mr. Ames and that the record evidence shows disputes of material fact as to whether Defendants had constructive notice of the adequacy of the lighting in the area where Mr. Ames's injury occurred. Plaintiffs also contend that the borrowed servant doctrine is inapplicable because the evidence shows that Mr. Ames worked for a third-party security company, not Defendants.

The Court concludes that there are disputes of material fact and will deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. Facts and Procedural History

A. Undisputed Facts

1. The Incident

Mr. Ames was employed by Imperial Security ("Imperial") at the time of the incident leading to this litigation. ECF 13, Defs.' Br., Ex. C, Ames Dep. at 15:14-17:15. He had worked for Imperial for approximately two years and had been assigned to work at numerous locations, including Defendants' hotel, the Renaissance Philadelphia, located at 500 Stevens Drive in Essington, Pennsylvania. Id., Ex. B, Defs.' Answer ¶ 3.

On March 24, 2012, Plaintiff was 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. Id., Ex. C, Ames Dep. at 112:7-115:1, 145:1-149:23. Plaintiff, carrying the newspapers in a bag on his shoulders, exited the door on the north side of the hotel at night and walked down a set of stairs. Id. at 112:7-113:17. On the way to the recycling bin, Mr. Ames tripped over a concrete platform three-to-four inches in height on which a dumpster was placed and suffered injuries to his wrist, hand, foot, ankle, and back. Id. at 112:7-113:17. He reported the incident to Imperial and took himself to the Emergency Room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Id. at 160:9-162:24.

Hotel General Manager Christopher M. Phillips, Defendants' Rule 30(b)(6) designee, identified a light over the rear door that Mr. Ames exited and two lights in proximity to the area of the incident that are triggered by photo sensors: one at the rear of the building and another on the adjacent eastern side. Id., Ex. D, Phillips Dep. at 56:3-58:2. There are also lights that illuminate the adjacent parking lots. Id. at 57:24-58:2.

2. Mr. Ames's Employment

Security guards' primary responsibilities included patrolling the hotel and parking lot and maintaining general safety. Id. at 50:2-51:4, 63:15-64:3. The night hotel managers and other management personnel would direct security guards to different areas of the hotel to assist when needed. Id. at 44:13-49:13. Guards would also be directed to perform other tasks such as delivering guest bills, delivering newspapers, disposing of old newspapers, making shuttle runs to the airport, and cleaning rooms. Id . The hotel provided walkie-talkies to the guards so they could be contacted. Id. at 41:4-11. Imperial instructed guards to "do whatever managers told [them]." Id., Ex. C, Ames Dep. at 26:23-27:18. General Manager Phillips testified that management did not tell guards how to do their security work but used them all over the hotel when they were available. Id., Ex. D, Phillips Dep. at 63:15-64:9.

When arriving for a shift, security guards would dial a call-in number to clock-in with Imperial and would "let the manager [at the hotel] know [they were] there." Id., Ex. C, Ames Dep. 219:17-18. At the conclusion of a shift, guards would complete a Daily Activity Report (DAR), which documented what had happened during their shift. Id. at 31:8-32:17. The guards would submit the reports to Imperial with copies to Defendants. Id. at 65:13-19. When arriving for a shift, the guards would brief themselves on any issues at the hotel by looking through prior DARs. Id. at 87:14-88:24.

Imperial paid the guards and instructed them to dress in a uniform that did not identify them as hotel employees. Id. at 54:4-55:9. Imperial provided the only training that the guards received as to how to be security guards before they worked on-site. Id., Ex. D, Phillips, Dep. at 15:23-16:9. The hotel provided no written materials to the security guards concerning how they were to perform their jobs. Id., Ex. D, Phillips Dep. at 19:7-11. Mr. Ames claimed he otherwise knew what to do from his experience working at other hotels. Id., Ex. C, Ames Dep. at 95:8-14. At one point, Imperial sent a supervisor to further train Mr. Ames in order to improve his job performance. Id. at 94:10-95:1.

Imperial had the sole power to terminate a guard and was required to sign off on any request to replace a guard. Id., Ex. D, Phillips, Dep. at 24:9-15. If there was an issue with a guard, the hotel would discuss the issue with ...

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