In many cases, these third parties are property owners or subcontractors in areas where the work is being conducted.
Our Manhattan premise liability lawyers recognize that these cases must be thoroughly researched and carefully argued, even in the pre-trial phases.
In the recent case of Spaulding v. Conopco, reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court upheld summary judgment for the defense, after finding the plaintiff failed to prove the land owner owed the worker a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care or a duty to warn.
Court records tell us that the case first unfolded back in 2010, when the plaintiff worked as a temporary employee for an industrial cleaning services firm. Part of his duties involved the use of “hydroblasting” industrial machinery, which is a cleaning method using a high-pressure water gun. It’s similar to a commercial pressure washer, but it’s even more powerful.
In the spring of 2010, he was assigned to clean an industrial tank. Although he’d cleaned other kinds of industrial tanks, he had never before cleaned this particular model. The tank was equipped with a steel heat shield that made it difficult for the worker to get into some of the inside sections of the tank to clean. In order to get to these areas, he climbed on top of some railing above the machine. The railing was wet. He slipped and fell, landing headfirst into the tank. Blades inside the machine somehow became activated, and he was pulled further inside by his collar.
He suffered severe injuries, and had to have his right leg amputated.
He requested and received workers’ compensation benefits as a result of the accident.
However, he later filed a lawsuit against the owner of the job site and tank, alleging the firm had negligently failed to provide a latter, scaffold or lift to allow him to access all sectors of the tank. He alleged that the device was defective, in dangerous condition and that the premises was unreasonably unsafe.
However, the defendant countered that it had no duty of care under state premises liability laws because it didn’t exercise any substantial control over the worker’s activities or the job site. The district court agreed with the defense, and this decision was ultimately upheld by the appellate court.
The issue of control is a key point in these cases. Most states have laws that indicate the owner or manager can be held liable for the injuries of an independent contractor’s employee if the manager or owner had some level of control over the contractor’s work.
The defendant had argued before the appellate court that it did not maintain control over the site where workers cleaned. It did not provide training or equipment. The worker reportedly only ever spoke to plant personnel regarding non-work related matters (greetings, pleasantries, etc.). No plant personnel was on site at the time of the accident. The company stated it did offer site safety training to the management of the cleaning firm, and that information should have been relayed to workers.
In order for plaintiffs to prove liability in New York premise liability cases, attorneys may point to control of day-to-day operations and regular communication of the site owner with contractor employees.
However, each case will be different. Consult with an experienced attorney to explore your options.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Spaulding v. Conopco, Jan. 29, 2014, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Seabolt v. County of Albemarle Analyzes Government Immunity in New York Premise Liability Cases, May 9, 2012, Manhattan Premise Liability Attorney