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California Plaintiffs Succeed on Appeal in Construction Injury Lawsuit Against Property Owner

In a victory for the plaintiffs, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed an order by a lower court that had sustained a demurrer by the defendants in a wrongful death action. In the case, the plaintiffs brought suit against several defendants after their father was fatally injured in a construction accident. Their suit included a negligence claim against the property owners that hired the independent contractor employing their father to repair a damaged concrete wall on the premises. The plaintiffs alleged that by providing a forklift and entering into an agreement, the defendants owed a duty of care to the victim to provide a safe means by which he could complete the work. However, the trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrers, finding that it was the obligation of the victim’s employer, rather than the defendants, to provide a safe work environment.

In California, the Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy against an employer for the injury or death of an employee. Generally, when an employee of an independent contractor hired to do dangerous work suffers a work-related injury, the employee is limited to recovery under the workers’ compensation system. However, the employee of an independent contractor is not barred from all recovery against the person who hired the contractor. The hirer may be liable to an employee of a contractor insofar as a hirer’s exercise of retained control affirmatively contributed to the employee’s injuries, or insofar as the provision of unsafe equipment affirmatively contributes to the employee’s injury. For example, if the hirer promises to undertake a particular safety measure, the hirer’s negligent failure to do so will generally result in liability if such negligence leads to an employee injury.

In the case, the property owners loaned the forklift to the victim’s employer to use instead of renting a scissor lift to save costs. The plaintiffs alleged that the property owners negligently provided the forklift and attachments to their father, knowing that they were not safe for their intended use and without warning them of the defects in the equipment. On appeal, the court explained that if the use benefited the employer, the defendants that loaned the equipment had a duty to reveal any defects or devices in the equipment that were known at the time of the borrowing, as well as a duty to use reasonable care to ascertain that the equipment was safe and suitable for the purposes for which it was being used. As a result, the appeals court concluded that the plaintiffs’ allegations, if proven, could result in liability for the defendants. Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the order of the lower court, allowing the plaintiffs to proceed with their wrongful death action.

If you have been the victim of a construction accident or another injury caused by the negligence of another party, you may be able to pursue compensation for your medical expenses and damages. The San Mateo attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos are committed to representing clients who have been hurt in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and other accidents. To learn more about your legal options, set up a free consultation with one of our skilled injury lawyers by contacting the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

California Appeals Court Allows Survivors of Pedestrian Victim to Sue Passenger for Encouraging Driver to Speed, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 15, 2015

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiffs in Suit Based on Dangerous Condition of Public Property, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 29, 2015

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