Groundbreaking Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case Prevents Injury Lawsuits by Vendor Employees

07.31.15

The under-utilized and infrequently cited Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Bowman v. Sunoco, Inc., 620 Pa. 28 (2013) is indispensable for any company that contracts out work and/or services (i.e., temporary staffing, sub-contracting, security, trucking, cleaning and maintenance, etc.). Properly applied, the case should prevent personal injury lawsuits brought by employees of vendor and service companies arising during the scope of their employment.

In Bowman, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the validity of a contract provision in which an employee of a security company expressly waived her right to sue any corporate customer or client of the security company for any injuries arising in the scope of her employment. Specifically, Allied Barton had contracted with Sunoco to provide security services at Sunoco’s facility. Bowman, an Allied Barton employee, was injured while providing these security services and subsequently brought a personal injury suit against Sunoco for its alleged failure to maintain a safe workplace. Sunoco moved to dismiss Bowman’s claims pursuant to the “third-party company disclaimer provision” Allied Barton had required Bowman to sign as a condition of her employment with Allied Barton.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court (by a seven to one majority) upheld the contract provision thereby barring Bowman’s claim against Sunoco. The Court found the “third-party company disclaimer provision” to be sufficiently specific in language and fully contemplated at the time of contracting so as not to violate public policy.

This decision from the state’s high court provides an important framework for avoiding costly litigation initiated by the employees of corporate clients and customers. The benefits of Bowman should be considered in all corporate services and vendor contract negotiations.

For more information, please contact Brian L. Calistri at bcalistri@wglaw.com or 215.972.7938.

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Lexi Burchmore
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lburchmore@wglaw.com

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