California Court Dismisses Independent Contractor’s Workplace Injury Case

water cooler

Photo Credit: Dale Stagg /

A California appeals court recently dismissed a personal injury case against several defendants after an independent contractor was injured at a work site. The plaintiff was working as an independent contractor that was providing maintenance engineering staff for a company that was undergoing a renovation of a water cooling tower on its premises. While on his shift, the plaintiff checked on the water level of a cooling tower by looking over the water cooling tower wall. He used a partial extension ladder which was left leaning against the tower by a subcontractor. The ladder slipped, causing the plaintiff to fall and sustain serious injuries. The plaintiff sued the landowner, the main contractor for the project, and other defendants, alleging they were liable for his injuries due to the unsafe conditions. The defendants claimed they were immune from suit because the worker was an employee of an independent contractor.

In a previous case, Privette v. Superior Court, California’s Supreme Court held that if an employee of an independent contractor hired to do dangerous work suffers an injury at work, the employee cannot recover compensation from the party that retained the independent contractor. However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule. One is if the party that hired the contractor retains control over safety conditions on the premises, negligently maintains those conditions, and affirmatively contributes to the employee’s injuries. Another exception is if the party that hired the independent contractor 1.) knew of a “latent or concealed preexisting hazardous condition” on the property, 2.) the contractor did not know of the condition and could not have reasonably discovered it, and 3.) the landowner did not warn the contractor about the hazardous condition.

The company that owned the premises and that hired the independent contractor, argued that it could not be held liable under Privette. The court agreed, and found that no exception applied in this case. There was undisputed evidence that there were several other ladders that would have been safe to use instead of the partial extension ladder, which the plaintiff chose not to use. The defendant did not represent that the extension ladder was a safe alternative to the platform ladder, and also did not promise to provide the plaintiff’s company with lighting at the cooling tower. Therefore, the company did not affirmatively contribute to the plaintiff’s injury. In addition, the court decided that the main contractor did not have a duty to ensure another contractor put its ladders away at the end of the day, and did not have a duty to provide temporary lighting at the work site.

Contact a Los Angeles Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in a California workplace accident or any type of accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The Neumann Law Group handles cases involving workplace accidents, construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip-and-falls, and other types of personal injury cases. The aftermath of an injury can be overwhelming, and fraught with emotional, physical, and financial turmoil. The Neumann Law Group can help you navigate the legal system to obtain the financial compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call 1-800-525-6386 to set up a free consultation.

Contact Information