Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Reconsider Employer’s Liability for Physical Injury Caused by Independent Contractor’s Work

On May 14, 2015, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted a petition for allowance of appeal on two narrow issues relating to an employer’s liability for negligence under Section 414 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts: (1) was it appropriate for the Superior Court to decide that there was insufficient evidence from which to conclude that the employer controlled the independent contractor’s work without submitting the issue to the jury; and (2) did the Superior Court err by requiring an additional “element of proof” for imposing liability on the employer that conflicts with Section 414? Both issues directly implicate the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Beil v. Telesis Constr., Inc., 11 A.3d 456 (Pa. 2011), where the court interpreted Section 414 in holding that a property owner is legally responsible for physical injuries caused by the work of an independent contractor only if the employer controls the independent contractor’s work. The case in which the appeal has been allowed, Nertavich v. PPL Elec. Utils., 100 A.3d 221 (Pa. Super. 2014), relied heavily on Beil in concluding that the evidence offered by the plaintiff was insufficient as a matter of law to establish liability under Section 414. It will be interesting to see what refinements the Supreme Court makes to its prior interpretation of Section 414.

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