In Hodge v. Aramark, LLC, the plaintiff, an operating room nurse at Holy Redeemer Hospital, was working after hours on an on-call basis when she entered sub-sterile scrub room to retrieve supplies for the next surgery. As she walked into the room, the plaintiff’s feet went out from under her, sending her head backward into a tiled wall. Just as she started to slip, the plaintiff heard a voice yell, “watch, the floor is wet.” It turned out that the voice belonged to a custodian who had just mopped the floor. Due to the fall, the plaintiff suffered head and back injuries that rendered her unable to return to work.
Plaintiff sued Aramark, alleging that it was contractually responsible to Holy Redeemer Hospital for housekeeping services, including the cleaning, mopping and maintenance of floor surfaces and the supervision of those activities. Aramark moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that Aramark had breached its limited contractual consulting duty, that it had any actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition that caused the accident, or that it was the proximate cause of damages to plaintiff. Aramark claimed that it did not contract to provide housekeeping services such as cleaning and mopping, which were duties and responsibilities performed by Holy Redeemer employees, and argued that it was the duty of the possessor of land, i.e. Holy Redeemer, to protect the plaintiff and others from dangerous conditions on the property.
In opposition to the motion for summary judgment, plaintiff argued that the it was the fault of the custodian, who worked for Aramark, for failing to place warning signs near the wet floor. Plaintiff further contended that Aramark had supervisory control over the custodian, determined what equipment and procedures he was to use, implemented safety procedures and reviewed his performance. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Aramark, finding that the custodian was not a “borrowed servant” of Aramark, and that plaintiff failed to proffer evidence that Aramark was negligent in its training of custodial employees regarding wet floor safety.
On appeal, the Superior Court reversed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment and remanded the case. The Court found that Holy Redeemer entered into a contract with Aramark that included regular maintenance of the floors in the area where the plaintiff slipped and fell. Aramark trained and managed the employees that Aramark deemed reasonably necessary to provide efficient management services. Although these employees were employees of Holy Redeemer, the right to control the manner of mopping the floors rested with the custodian’s supervisor, who was an Aramark employee. The Court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, found that a reasonable juror could conclude that Aramark controlled the daily performance of the custodians’ duties. Thus, summary judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Thanks to Alexandra Perry for her contribution to this post and please write to Mike Bono with any questions.