November 11, 2022
In a split decision, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One, held that a premises liability claim asserted by a contractor against a property owner was not subject to the limitations of the Privette doctrine, which generally precludes personal injury claims against property owners asserted by contractors and their employees who are injured during the performance of the contractor’s work. (Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689.)
The majority concluded that because the contractor was hired by a tenant rather than the lessor/property owner, the premises liability claim against the lessor asserted by the contractor—who fell through a portion of the roof of the leased premises while removing an exterior sign for the tenant—was not subject to Privette’s limitations.
A dissenting opinion concludes that the majority opinion’s refusal to apply the Privette doctrine to the contractor’s claim is contrary to the policy considerations discussed in two recent Supreme Court decisions applying the Privette doctrine, Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated (2021) 12 Cal.5th 256 and Gonzalez v. Mathis (2021) 12 Cal.5th 29.
Those decisions reaffirmed that anyone who retains a contractor is presumed to have delegated to the contractor a duty to ensure that the contract work is performed in a safe manner. The dissent concluded that Privette’s presumptive delegation rule applied to the contractor’s premises liability claim against the defendant lessor even though it was the lessee who retained the contractor to conduct the work on the leased premises. Thus “it [was] up to the independent contractor to make a reasonable inspection of the portions of the property” where the work was to be performed “and either take precautions in light of those conditions or elect not to do the work.”