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Rosales v. Bekendam (2018)

July 11, 2018

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Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully obtained affirmance of a judgment in favor of a homeowner sued by an independent contractor who injured himself while performing tree-trimming work at the homeowner’s residence.

Homeowner Bekendam hired plaintiff to perform gardening work at his home, including trimming several palm trees 30-40 feet in hight. Although the state requires a license to trim trees over 15 feet, plaintiff did not have the requisite license. Plaintiff did not inform the homeowner that he was unlicensed, and agreed to take the job. Plaintiff provided all his own equipment and trimmed the trees without direction from the homeowner; he fell while trimming one of the trees and sustained injuries. Plaintiff sued homeowner in tort, alleging that, under State Compensation Ins. Fund v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1985) 40 Cal.3d 5, homeowner was plaintiff’s employer, and homeowner was therefore liable for failing to train plaintiff and provide him with the proper equipment. The trial court granted summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff failed to show negligence on the part of the homeowner.

The plaintiff appealed from the judgment. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in an unpublished opinion, holding that plaintiff’s only available remedy was a negligence claim, and the scope of the homeowner’s duty did not include training plaintiff and providing him with equipment. As a result, plaintiff could have prevailed only if he showed that homeowner affirmatively contributed to plaintiff’s injuries, which plaintiff did not do.

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