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General Contractor’s still “generally” not liable for their sub’s employee’s injuries (“Privette Doctrine” Remains)

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2016 | Construction |


“ Generally, when employees of independent contractors are injured in the workplace, they cannot sue the party that hired the contractor to do the work.” (SeaBright Ins. Co. v. US Airways, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 590, 594.) This rule has been known as the “Privette doctrine” since 1993 when the Supreme Court decided Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689, holding that when an independent contractor’s employee is injured on the job and thus subject to workers’ compensation coverage, he cannot seek recovery of tort damages from someone who hired the contractor, but did not cause the injury. Thus, a roofing employee injured carrying buckets of hot tar up a ladder could not sue the property owner for injuries compensable under the workers’ compensation system.  But there are some exceptions:

Plaintiffs can argue negligence per se by  violation of broad regulations and laws by the developer/homeowner/general contractor to impose liability.  The major exceptions to find liability “up the chain” include if the hirer retains control over the work of the independent contractor that also is tied to the injury, the general contractor/property owner fails to disclose a dangerous preexisting condition, or provides defective equipment/materials to use.  Although, the courts still try to protect the general contractor, developer or homeowner from these types of claims.  Overall, Privette still protects general contractors and property owners.