Congratulations are in order for partner Kelly Waters and senior counsel Brendan Johnson, who successfully argued a motion for summary judgment for the client! This case involved a plaintiff who brought suit against WSHB's client, the owner and general contractor of the oil refinery where the plaintiff fell and suffered injuries to his cervical spine. Plaintiff was employed by an established subcontractor at the work site at the time of his injury. Plaintiff's initial demand was five million dollars and was demanding 2.9 million dollars at the time of the decision.
The court found that the defendant was not liable for the injuries of the plaintiff because it did not owe a duty of care to the injured worker as he was employed by a subcontractor on the site and not by the defendant. It quoted several pieces of case law in support of this decision including, "An occupier of land or general contractor is not responsible for harm which occurs to an employee as a result of the very work that the employee was hired to perform on site." Dawson v. Bunker Hill Place Assoc., 289 N.J. Super. 309, 318 (App. Div.). The court also quoted, "A general contractor is not liable for injuries to a subcontractor's employees absent control over the job location or direction of the manner in which the delegate tasks are carried out." Muhammad v. N.J. Transit, 176 N.J. 185, 198-199 (2003). Finally, the court used Tarabokia v. Structure Tone, 419 N.J. Super. 103, 113-114 (App.Div. 2012) as guidance, "A general contractor enjoys broad immunity from liability for injuries to an employee of a subcontractor resulting from either the condition of the premises or the manner in which the hired work is performed." Id. at 112, 113.
In the case at hand, the subcontractor at the site had exclusive control over the plaintiff's means and method of work as well as training, workplace safety, inspection and maintenance. The defendant also relied on the subcontractor's expertise and knowledge regarding the work it performed at the jobsite. The work being done on the date of plaintiff's injury was fully within the subcontractor's responsibility and scope of work. Given all of these facts, the court determined that the plaintiff was an employee of the subcontractor and not the defendant, owner. The court also found that the non-liability exceptions were inapplicable to this case. Therefore, the court granted the defense's motion for summary judgment in favor of the defense.
Congratulations to our client and to the stellar work of the WSHB team working on this case!