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Johnson v. The Raytheon Co. (2019)

March 29, 2019

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Horvitz & Levy obtained the affirmance of a contested summary judgment, resulting in a published opinion limiting liability of property owners for claims asserted by contractors’ employees arising from work-related injuries.

Plaintiff, the employee of a contractor hired by Raytheon, was injured at a Raytheon plant while using the top half of an extension ladder belonging to another contractor. The contractor who owned the ladder left the extension ladder segment, which lacked a slip-resistant base, propped against a wall at the Raytheon plant. Because the ladder segment had no slip-resistant base, it slipped out from under plaintiff as he used it. Plaintiff sued Raytheon, alleging it negligently failed to ensure that the ladder was safe for plaintiff’s use. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Raytheon and the plaintiff appealed.

Horvitz & Levy represented Raytheon on appeal. The California Court of Appeal (Second District, Division Eight) affirmed summary judgment in favor of Raytheon, holding it could not be liable either on a retained control or premises liability theory because another, safe ladder was available in a nearby storage room, but plaintiff opted not to use it. The court also held a hirer may reasonably assume a contractor will conduct a reasonable inspection of equipment used in work-related activities.

The Court of Appeal opinion is particularly significant because the extent of hirer liability under both retained control and premises liability theories is now pending before the Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Mathis (S247677) and Sandoval v. Qualcomm (S252796). Horvitz & Levy represents Qualcomm in Sandoval and filed an amicus brief on behalf of the defendant homeowner in Gonzalez.