Washington Case Law Update: Borrowed Servant Doctrine is Jury Question Where Complete Control is Disputed

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Borrowed Servant Doctrine is Jury Question Where Complete Control is Disputed

From the desk of Kyle Riley: Under the “borrowed servant” doctrine, an employer is liable for the allegedly negligent conduct of the employee of another if the employer has complete control over the conduct in question.  Read on to learn more about how this doctrine is analyzed.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a workplace injury, the Washington Supreme Court held that whether the borrowed servant doctrine applies is properly a question for the jury where complete control over the borrowed servant’s actions is disputed.  The case provides an important reminder that where an employee is loaned to a second employer, liability follows control.

Wilcox v. Basehore, No. 92362-1, Washington Supreme Court (February 9, 2017)

Dean Wilcox (“Wilcox”) sustained severe injuries on the job when he fell through an open catwalk hatch that lacked protective guard chains.  Wilcox was a permanent employee of Washington Closure Hanford LLC (“WCH”), a company involved in the cleanup of the United States Department of Energy’s Hanford site in southeastern Washington.  Steve Basehore (“Basehore”), a safety planner, was employed by Bartlett Services, Inc. (“Bartlett”), and was involved in preparing the work package for the building where Wilcox fell.  A third company, ELR Consulting, Inc., (“ELR”) served as an intermediary between WCH and Bartlett.  This arrangement came about because ELR qualified as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.  By contracting with Bartlett through ELR, WCH was able to trigger extra federal payments pursuant to contract.

Wilcox filed suit against Basehore, Bartlett, and ELR for negligence, alleging that Basehore’s negligent development of the work package and safety protocols led to his fall and resulting injuries.  Wilcox later voluntarily dismissed Basehore from the lawsuit, and the remaining parties filed cross motions...

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