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Ochs v. Reading Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 24, 2015

THOMAS OCHS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
READING HOSPITAL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

J. WILLIAM DITTER, Jr., District Judge.

This case involves a personal injury claim filed by Plaintiffs Thomas Ochs and Laura Ochs against Defendant Reading Hospital arising from an alleged trip and fall on its premises. Presently before me is Reading Hospital's motion for summary judgment along with Plaintiffs' response, Reading Hospital's reply, and Plaintiffs' sur-reply. The sole question at issue is whether Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the "borrowed servant" doctrine of the Pennsylvania's Workers' Compensation Act. For the reasons that follow, I conclude that Thomas Ochs was a borrowed servant and that Plaintiffs' claims are barred pursuant to that doctrine. As a result, Reading Hospital's motion for summary judgment is being granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Thomas Ochs tripped and fell on steps at Reading Hospital. At the time, he was a contractual employee of AMN Healthcare, a temporary health care staffing company. Mr. Ochs was assigned by AMN to work at Reading Hospital as a consultant hired to assist in training Reading Hospital employees in using "Epic, " an electronic health record software program.

By way of background, AMN contracted with Reading Hospital to provide staffing support services to Reading Hospital for the implementation of the Epic software. Generally, in the hiring process AMN interviewed Epic consultants, ensured all documentation was completed according to Reading Hospital's specifications and provided Reading Hospital with a list of screened Epic consultants. Pursuant to its contract with Reading Hospital, AMN also paid the Epic consultants' wages, withheld taxes, paid Social Security taxes as well as unemployment insurance and maintained workers' compensation insurance coverage.

Mr. Ochs responded to an online posting for the job and completed a telephone interview with an AMN recruiter prior to being hired as a consultant for a month-long assignment at Reading Hospital. When he arrived at Reading Hospital on January 30, 2012, Mr. Ochs participated in hospital orientation and training prior to the "go-live" of the Epic system on February 3, 2012. Over the course of this training, instructional designers and trainers taught the Epic consultants Reading Hospital's customizations of the Epic program.

After training, Reading Hospital determined the appropriate assignment for each of the consultants and established a work schedule for each consultant. Mr. Ochs was assigned to the psychiatric unit. He was required to check-in at the beginning of each shift with a Reading Hospital lead or floor manager and check out with hospital staff prior to taking a break or lunch. Although an AMN liaison was stationed at a "command center" in the hospital, the liaison served an administrative role and did not have any contact with Mr. Ochs regarding his day-to-day activities.

Mr. Ochs' work was done on hospital equipment. He was provided with a badge and vest with a Reading Hospital logo that he was required to wear at all times while at the hospital. He was also required to turn in a timecard to Reading Hospital for approval.

On February 7, 2013, Mr. Ochs was injured when he tripped on overgrown ivy and fell while walking up the steps at Reading Hospital. He advised the Reading Hospital nurse manager in his building of his fall and notified his AMN recruiter located in California. Mr. Ochs returned to his home in Chicago, Illinois, a few days afer his accident.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard of review for summary judgment is well established. A reviewing court may enter summary judgment where there are no genuine issues as to any material fact and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The evidence presented must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. The inquiry is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law. In deciding the motion for summary judgment, it is not the function of the court to decide disputed questions of fact, but only to determine whether genuine issues of fact exist.

The moving party has the initial burden of identifying relevant evidence which it believes shows an absence of a genuine issue of material fact and supports its claim. The moving party's burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings and designate specific facts, by use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories, showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Moreover, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof, it must make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of every element essential to that party's case.

III. DISCUSSION

Reading Hospital moves for summary judgment based on the argument that Mr. Ochs was effectively its employee when the accident occurred, and therefore, it is immune from tort liability. Mr. Ochs contends that he was an employee of AMN Healthcare and ...


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