A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that a legal doctrine blocked an effort by the parents of a construction worker to pursue a wrongful-death claim against a general contractor who had hired their son’s employer to clean out a sump pump.
Tyler Development Co. Inc., a general contractor working in the home building industry, hired D&D Construction Specialties Inc. to clean the pump. The contract between Tyler and D&D required D&D to follow all applicable safety regulations in the performance of its work and to keep the work site “clean and free of trash, debris or material waste caused by its employees or its work,” according to Ayala v. Tyler Development Co. Inc.filed in the Court of Appeals for the 2nd District of California in Los Angeles.
Tyler, which was among several sued parties, moved for summary judgment, arguing that the “Privatte doctrine”; exempted it from all liability for injuries sustained by workers hired by a subcontractor. This doctrine holds that a tenant of an independent contractor is usually not liable for the contractor’s negligence.
A trial judge found that the doctrine applied to attorneys’ liability against Tyler.
The appeals court agreed, stating that “Tyler’s involvement in the task was limited to asking D&D to clean the sump pump and to unscrew the cover to allow D&D employees access to the sump pump opening” and that “Tyler did not dictate how the sump pump should be cleaned, and it did not direct anyone to D&D employee to enter it.”
The court also said that the mere failure to exercise the power to compel the subcontractor to adopt safer procedures does not but more than breach any duty owed to the subcontractor’s employee.
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