Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) September 16, 2019 – A New Jersey appellate court held The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) was not liable for a worker’s injury resulting from a trench collapse while he was installing steam pipes on TCNJ’s property.
TCNJ contracted with A&J Construction (A&J) for a pipe replacement project. A&J employed an experienced pipe layer who excavated a trench to install replacement pipes. The man sustained injuries when the trench collapsed.
The man filed a personal injury suit against TCNJ and their project engineer. The trial judge granted the defendants summary judgment, concluding that the defendants did not owe the man a duty of care. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court agreed in a decision handed down on March 4, 2019.
Generally, a landowner owes no duty to an employee of an independent contractor. However, the landowner will be liable if the landowner maintains control over how the work is performed. The man, in this case, argued that the project engineer exercised enough control over the project to justify imposing liability on the defendants. The court disagreed.
A landowner’s general supervisory control of the results of the independent contractor’s work is not enough to justify imposing liability. The man’s co-workers testified that the project engineer left the methods of work to A&J. The project engineer visited the job site to perform periodic inspections of the work and materials. He did not direct how to perform the work or assume a supervisory responsibility.
A landowner has no duty to eliminate hazards that are obvious to an employee and that are incidental to the work the landowner hired the independent contractor to do. The landowner can reasonably assume the worker performing the job or his superiors have the skill to recognize the danger and perform the work safely. The man’s remedy was a workers’ compensation claim against his employer, A&J.
Suffered a work injury while performing construction or excavation work? Talk to a worker’s compensation lawyer at Petrillo and Goldberg at 856.249.9295 or visit https://www.petrilloandgoldberg.com.
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