San Diego Partners Bob Carlson and Mike Zech obtained summary judgment in favor of one of the firm’s national builder clients.
The plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, an employee of one of the client’s subcontractors, suffered significant injuries after he fell from a ladder and a framing beam he had just placed landed on his chest. Although the plaintiff had obtained a significant award for his injuries in a separate workers’ compensation action against his employer, he also filed a civil lawsuit against the builder and others, alleging they were also responsible based on premises liability and negligence theories of liability. The plaintiff claimed that the builder maintained control of the worksite and, by retaining a third-party Cal-OSHA safety consultant to ensure the builder’s compliance with Cal-OSHA, assumed responsibility for site safety of everyone working on the site.
In the motion for summary judgment, the defense successfully argued that the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy for his workplace injury was under California’s comprehensive workers’ compensation system, and in light of the California Supreme Court’s holdings in Privette v. Superior Court and its progeny, the builder is not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries as a matter of law because responsibility for the plaintiff’s safety had been delegated to and assumed by his employer, an independent contractor. Although the plaintiff argued that one of the exceptions to the Privette rule applied because he alleged the builder retained control over the safety procedures and manner of work performed by the plaintiff and his employer, the Court agreed with the defense position that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden in supporting that claim and demonstrating that any affirmative conduct by the builder contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. As a result, the Court concluded that the builder was entitled to summary judgment in its favor on all of the plaintiff’s causes of action.