Seriously Injured Worker Denied Relief Under Respondeat Superior

Dean Wilcox fell 50 feet through an open catwalk hatch onto a concrete floor. Having sustained severe injuries, he sued the on-site safety planner, Steven Basehore, for negligent planning causing the fall; Wilcox also named the safety planner’s employer, Bartlett Services Inc., and an intermediary company, ELR Consulting Inc. (ELR), in respondeat superior. ELR was one of the many contractors involved in the cleanup project.

The work being done at the  site was to dismantle a nuclear weaponry facility that measured more than 586 square miles.

Before trial, the court granted ELR judgment as a matter of law. At trial, the court instructed the jury on the borrowed servant doctrine, an extension of respondeat superior. Wilcox appealed both decisions. The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed.

After review, the Washington Supreme Court also affirmed: The borrowed servant doctrine was a question for the jury, where complete control was a disputed fact. Whether the servant is loaned through an intermediary does not preclude application of the doctrine.

The state supreme court concluded, “We decline to consider the implications of Wilcox’s indemnification argument because it was raised as a jury instruction challenge for the first time on appeal.” The Court found that judgment as a matter of law was properly granted in favor of ELR because no reasonable jury could find that ELR had a right to control Basehore’s conduct.

Dean Wilcox v. Basehore, Bartlett Nuclear, Inc., et al., Supreme Court of Washington, No. 92362-1 (February 9, 2017)

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling worker injury cases, construction site injury cases, scaffold injury cases, truck accidents and car accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured, harmed or died as a result of the negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Lansing, Northlake, Orland Hills, Glenview, Franklin Park, Dixmoor, Des Plaines, Countryside, Berwyn, Blue Island, Berkeley, Hillside, Homewood, Sauk Village and Roselle, Ill.

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