from the Judgment Entered, September 20, 2018, in the Court
of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division at
No(s): 01029 December Term, 2015.
BEFORE: KUNSELMAN, J., MURRAY, J., and PELLEGRINI [*] , J.
negligence action, Plaintiff Christopher Young appeals from
an order dismissing his claim against Defendant S.B. Conrad,
Inc. Prior to seating a jury, the trial court determined Mr.
Young was a statutory employee of S.B. Conrad under the
Pennsylvania Workman's Compensation Act ("the
Workers' Comp. Act"), as a matter of law. Thus, it
held that S.B. Conrad was immune from Mr. Young's lawsuit
and granted summary judgment in favor of S.B. Conrad on
August 21, 2017. However, the trial court memorialized its
order on a trial worksheet that purported to enter a
compulsory non-suit rather than summary judgment.
of immediately appealing as he could have, Mr. Young relied
on the trial court's mischaracterization of its order as
an entry of non-suit and filed a post-trial motion to remove
it. Because his reliance was reasonable, we have jurisdiction
over his appeal, even though it came in nearly a year after
the grant of summary judgment. We find, however, that Mr.
Young failed to preserve any of his appellate issues. Thus,
Factual and Procedural Background
case's facts are largely irrelevant, because our
disposition rests on procedural grounds. Briefly, Mr. Young
alleges he was an employee of RRR Contractors. He also claims
S.B. Conrad, Inc. contracted with RRR Contractors for a
building project. RRR Contractors assigned Mr. Young to work
on that project. In the course of his duties, Mr. Young fell
two stories, suffered severe and permanent injuries, and
week before trial, S.B. Conrad filed a motion for non-suit,
claiming to be Mr. Young's statutory employer under the
Workers' Comp. Act, and it asked the trial court to
bifurcate that issue from the rest of the case. On August 21,
2017, the trial court granted its motion, which the trial
court said it was treating as a motion for summary judgment.
As the court explained without objection from Mr. Young,
"I think the preliminary step is to rule on the
submission of statutory employment, which I am looking at it
as a motion for summary judgement, although I filed it as a
pre-trial motion for bifurcation." N.T., 8/21/17, at 3.
was a lengthy oral argument, where both sides treated the
employment-status question as one of law for the court.
See id. at 3-19. Indeed, Mr. Young's attorney
conceded that the issue was one of law:
THE COURT: I believe this is a decision, not
something that needed to be decided by a jury. That it deals
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: I agree with that.
Id. at 21.
the trial court ruled that Mr. Young was a statutory employee
of S.B. Conrad, plaintiff's counsel tried, for the first,
to interpose a procedural issue. His discussion with the
trial court went as follows:
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: Your Honor, I just,
for the record, I need to put this on the record to make sure
the Superior Court doesn't say we don't have a
S.B. Conrad failed to file a Summary Judgment Motion, which I
would have then had 30 days to produce evidence as to why
they have not met their burden. On Friday and today, S.B.
Conrad renewed the legal argument that they are immune, not
in the form of Summary Judgment, but in a motion in
limine. I then had the afternoon of Friday to supply the
Court with whatever -
THE COURT: And you had all weekend.
PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL: I apologize. I
thought you wanted me to respond by the end of the day
THE COURT: I never directed you to do that.
I asked this question in the conference room, I
said: Do I have everything in front of me that I need to
make a ruling? And you specifically stated that I did.
You said: [All the evidence that I
needed was in the documents that you] provided and based on
that representation I came in this morning with the
understanding that all sides were on the same page. That
based on the writing I was given, that I could proceed
[Defense counsel] said at that time, if you come in Court on
Monday morning and you think you need more, I will have
people from S.B. Conrad to supplement anything that I have if
you feel that need to.
Id. at 20 (emphasis in original).
counsel did not contest the trial court's recollection of
the off-the-record conversation in the conference room, place
an objection on the record, or cite any procedural rule
during the August 21, 2017 argument.
trial court memorialized its decision in a form order, headed
"Trial Work Sheet," on which the court placed an
"X" next to "Non-Suit entered." August
21, 2017 Order at 1. Six days after receiving the notice of
non-suit, Mr. Young moved for post-trial relief, raising two
claims of procedural error for the first time. Nearly a year
later, the trial court denied his motion.
Young appealed from that order twelve months after S.B.
Conrad received summary judgment. The prothonotary then
entered judgment based on the ...