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Harold K. Vradenburgh v. Southern California Edison Company

December 6, 2010


Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, Peter J. Polos, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 07CC08627)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rylaarsdam, Acting P. J.

Vradenburgh v. Southern California Con Edison



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.


A truck driver, who had worked at Southern California Edison's San Onofre nuclear power facility for some four years, was injured while unloading Edison materials from an Edison truck. The undisputed evidence, including the truck driver's deposition testimony, established that Edison had direct supervision and control over him.

To avoid the bar of worker's compensation, the truck driver sought to sue Edison in tort for his job-related injuries, arguing that Edison had no employment relationship with him, and did not direct how he was to drive his truck. Because of union hiring rules, the truck driver was formally retained and paid by a unionized contractor, pursuant to two long-term loaned employee agreements with Edison.

We affirm a summary judgment based on the trial court's determination that Edison was the truck driver's special employer as a matter of law, leaving workers' compensation rather than civil litigation as his exclusive remedy for his job-related injuries.


1. Plaintiff's Employment at Edison

Plaintiff Harold Vradenburgh, a Teamster truck driver, worked at the San Onofre nuclear generating station (San Onofre) for a four-year period. He was injured on August 23, 2006. He fell while climbing into the truck cab, as he stood on an improperly secured step, which also served as a battery cover.

Edison is a joint owner as well as the operating manager of San Onofre. Because Edison did not have an agreement with a local council of building trades unions, Edison could not directly hire union personnel to work at San Onofre.

In 2004, Edison signed two related agreements with Bechtel Construction Company (Bechtel), which has had a longstanding relationship with organized labor, to provide so-called "Loaned Employees" (both union and nonunion) to work at San Onofre over a six-year period. The agreements further provided that the loaned employees would perform their job tasks "under the exclusive supervision, direction, and control of Edison at all times during their performance under this Agreement. . . ." Because Edison was to exercise exclusive control over such employees, the agreements relieved Bechtel from any liability "to Edison for the performance or results of the Work, or for completion of the Work by any certain date."

Plaintiff, a Bechtel employee, worked at San Onofre pursuant to the loaned employee agreements. He drove Edison trucks within the facility to load and unload warehouse materials "everything from toilet paper to plywood, pipe, prefabricated pipe. You name it we haul it." Bechtel paid plaintiff's wages and benefits, and had the authority to fire him. Bechtel also provided plaintiff with gloves and safety glasses, and conducted a weekly safety meeting.

Plaintiff's "primary supervisor" was Carla Brown, an Edison transportation manager. Brown supervised and dispatched the truck drivers at San Onofre, and managed the garage vehicle fleet and garage personnel. She supervised plaintiff from May 2003 until September 2006, directing him which truck to drive and where to deliver the haul.

Every morning, plaintiff attended a prejob meeting with Brown, who gave him, and his fellow Teamster truck drivers, a delivery job and an Edison truck. Plaintiff received anywhere from two to five assignments a day. Plaintiff would report back to Brown, either in person or by radio, to receive a new assignment once he was finished. Brown also kept track of plaintiff's completed work. According to plaintiff, "she was in control."

On the day of the accident, Brown, according to her customary practice, assigned to plaintiff both his delivery task and the specific Edison vehicle he was to drive.

2. The Litigation

Plaintiff filed a negligence claim against Edison. Edison asserted the "special employment" doctrine as an affirmative defense. Plaintiff also filed products liability claims against a co-defendant, General ...

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