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Solomon v. Fedex Supply Chain, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 14, 2020




         Before the court is a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 33) filed by Defendant Fedex Supply Chain, Inc. (“FedEx”) seeking dismissal of the complaint (Doc. 1) filed by Plaintiff Bashan Solomon (“Solomon”). For the reasons stated herein, FedEx's motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         This action for negligence arises from a forklift accident and injuries sustained by Solomon in the scope of his employment in February 2017. At the time of the accident, Solomon was a contractual employee for the employment agency Randstad North America, Inc. (“Randstad”) and assigned to work as a forklift operator and order picker at a FedEx distribution center (the “Distribution Center”) located in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, within the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

         The rights and responsibilities of Randstad and FedEx with respect to Solomon and other Randstad staffing personnel assigned to the Distribution Center are set forth in a 2016 Master Services Agreement for Temporary Staffing (the “Staffing Agreement”).[1] The Staffing Agreement provides that FedEx shall be responsible for, among other things, training, supervising, and instructing staffing personnel, as well as maintaining a safe and legal workplace. (Doc. 33-4, pp. 7-8, 13 of 34.) It similarly provides that FedEx shall retain such direction and control over staffing personnel as it determines in its sole discretion to be appropriate to conduct its business, including the right to accept, reject, and remove staffing personnel. (Id., pp. 5-6 of 34.) At the same time, the Staffing Agreement provides that Randstad is “solely responsible for selecting, hiring, disciplining, reviewing, evaluating and terminating Staffing Personnel, ” as well as paying their wages and maintaining their benefits. (Id., pp. 4-5 of 34.)

         Solomon testified that he was assigned to his position at the Distribution Center after undergoing an interview and several days of new hire training provided by FedEx. (Doc. 38-4, 144:19-145:4; 175:16-22.) That training included classroom and hands-on training, certification tests, and training on three types of forklifts, including the type that Solomon was operating at the time of the accident. (Id., 147:5- 12; 149:6-16.) After satisfactorily completing the training, Solomon reported to the Distribution Center on February 5, 2017 for his first day of work. (Id., 176:9-177:4; 257.) There, Solomon attended a pre-shift meeting run by FedEx management personnel and received his specific shift assignment from a FedEx supervisor. (Id., 259:1-261:8.) As part of his shift assignment, Solomon was directed to shadow a FedEx employee. (Id., 260:22-261:8; 391:23-393:1.) Later during that same shift, while he was operating a standup forklift, Solomon collided with a parked forklift and sustained serious leg injuries. (Id., 178:18-179:2; Doc. 33, p. 8 of 24.)

         In September 2017, Solomon initiated this action by filing a complaint in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas alleging negligence and other claims against Fedex Supply Chain Distribution System, Inc., Fedex. Corp., and Raymond Corp. (Doc. 1, p. 18 of 38.) In November 2017, the case was removed to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, p. 7 of 38.) There, Fedex Corp. and Fedex Supply Chain Distribution System were dismissed on mutual consent, FedEx was substituted in as the proper defendant, and the caption was amended accordingly. (Docs. 2-3.) In December 2017, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania transferred the case to this court. (Doc. 15.) This court thereafter granted Raymond Corp.'s unopposed motion for summary judgment and dismissed it from this action. (Doc. 37.)

         In March 2019, FedEx filed its present motion for summary judgment, requesting dismissal of Solomon's remaining claims for negligence on the basis that it was Solomon's statutory employer and is therefore immune from suit under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act (the “PWCA”). (Docs. 33-34.) The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.” See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law and is “genuine” only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable factfinder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a court “must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party” and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the same. Hugh v. Butler Cnty. Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a disputed issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. “Once the moving party points to evidence demonstrating no issue of material fact exists, the non-moving party has the duty to set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists and that a reasonable factfinder could rule in its favor.” Azur v. Chase Bank, USA, Nat'l Ass'n, 601 F.3d 212, 216 (3d Cir. 2010). The non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint; instead, it must “go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). Summary judgment should be granted where a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. “Such affirmative evidence - regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial - must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.” Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).

         III. Discussion

         A. FedEx was Solomon's statutory employer under the PWCA.

         The court finds that FedEx was Solomon's statutory employer pursuant to the borrowed servant doctrine, entitling it to immunity under the Pennsylvania ...

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