November 28, 2022
Brown v. Beach House Design & Development
The Court of Appeal in this case addressed an issue that frequently arises under the Privette doctrine—the extent to which a general contractor can be liable for injuries to a subcontractor’s employee. The injuries in this case arose when an employee of a window casing subcontractor fell from a scaffold erected by a plastering subcontractor at a construction site. According to evidence offered by the plaintiff in opposition to a motion for summary judgment filed by the general contractor, the scaffold was not securely attached to the building where the work was being done and planks, crossbars, ties, and guardrails were missing from the scaffold.
The Court of Appeal acknowledged that under the Privette doctrine, a general contractor ordinarily delegates responsibility to its subcontractors to ensure the safety of the subcontractors’ employees, but applied an exception to that general rule. Under that exception, a general contractor may be held liable for injuries caused by defective equipment that the general contractor provides for use by subcontractors’ employees. The court held that because the general contractor in the case before it paid the plastering subcontractor to erect the scaffold, the general contractor was deemed to have provided it for use by the window casing subcontractor. Accordingly, the general contractor could be liable to the window casing subcontractor’s employee for failing to ensure that the scaffold remained safe for use at all times during the construction project, even when the plastering subcontractor was not using it.