There are many hazards on a construction site. Financial recovery options for resulting injuries may not be nearly so numerous. It’s important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you identify your legal options and determine a good course of action.
In the recent case of Khosh v. Staples Construction Co., weighed by the California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, Division Six, the question was whether a trial court correctly granted summary judgment against an injured employee who reportedly failed to present evidence that the defendant affirmatively contributed to his injuries. The court noted that generally speaking, independent contractors can’t recover tort damages for work-related injuries from the contractor’s hirer. There are some exceptions to this rule, but the court determined those don’t apply here.
According to court records, California State University hired a construction company to install a backup electrical system at the university. The construction company hired a subcontractor called DK Electrical Systems for the high-voltage work. In turn, DK hired a company called Myers Power Products to work as its subcontractor for the construction and installation of electrical switchgear for the system. The plaintiff was employed by Myers’ subcontractor.
The contract between the school and the construction company required the construction firm to use precautions at all times for the protection of property and persons, and also to retain a full-time superintendent to be on site at all times to direct the project. The construction company was to be held responsible exclusively for the health and safety of subcontractors to avoid construction accidents, and it was required to submit written work plans for all activities that would affect university operations.
The plaintiff’s employer notified the construction company it needed three days to accomplish its work, which required a shutdown of the electrical system. A campus-wide electrical shutdown was scheduled, to be followed by a final testing.
The plaintiff got to the site two hours before the scheduled shutdown. A project manager for the university allowed the plaintiff and a helper to enter the substation with the electrical switchgear. The plaintiff started work while the switchgear was still energized, which resulted in an electrical arc flash. The plaintiff sustained severe and lasting injuries. The defendant construction company didn’t have any personnel on site at the time.
A personal injury lawsuit filed by the plaintiff asserted the defendant construction company was negligent. The defense asked for summary judgment, arguing employees of contractors are usually barred from suing the hirer of the contractor for work injuries. That means the worker is typically limited to workers’ compensation remedies against his or her employer. The plaintiff argued that doctrine didn’t prohibit his claim because the defendant retained control over the project and affirmatively contributed to his injuries because it did not have a qualified electrical worker on site to supervise the plaintiff. There was also no written procedure for the electrical system shutdown.
The trial court granted summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.
The appeals court affirmed. The court first outlined the exceptions to the doctrine that employees of independent subcontractors can sue general contractors, which include:
- The hirer retained control over part of the work and negligently asserted that control in a way that contributed to the worker’s injury; and
- The hirer had a nondelegable duty that was breached in a way that contributed to the worker’s injury.
The court ruled neither of these exceptions applied here.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Khosh v. Staples Construction Co., Oct. 26, 2016, California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, Division Six
More Blog Entries:
$550k Damages Award for Parking Garage Trip-and-Fall Injury, Oct. 28, 2016, Greensboro Construction Accident Lawyer Blog