California Supreme Court to Consider Scope of Hirer's Liability for Subcontractor's Injuries Under "Retained Control" Theory
February 1, 2019
Sandoval v. Qualcomm, Inc. (2018)
28 Cal.App.5th 381, review granted Jan. 16, 2019, S252796
Plaintiff was a subcontractor hired to assist with electrical work on defendant Qualcomm’s property. Before the inspection, Qualcomm deenergized an electrical circuit that was to be inspected. Other circuits in the room remained energized, but were safely enclosed by metal panels. During the inspection, the electrical contractor removed one of the panels—knowing that he was exposing an energized circuit—without advising either Qualcomm or the subcontractor that he had done so. The subcontractor then approached the live circuit and was injured.
The Court of Appeal upheld a judgment against Qualcomm on a “retained control” theory of liability. Although the hirer of a contractor cannot be liable on a retained control theory unless the hirer “affirmatively contributed” to a worker’s injuries, the Court of Appeal held that Qualcomm could be liable because it failed to ensure that the subcontractor was aware of the energized circuits.
Horvitz & Levy represented defendant Qualcomm in the Court of Appeal and filed the petition for review on its behalf. Horvitz & Levy has appeared in seven of the ten cases in which the Supreme Court has considered the scope of the Privette doctrine over the past 25 years, on behalf of defendants or their amici.