Torts - Peculiar Risk Doctrine Does Not Apply To Injured Independent Contractor


In Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal 4th 689, the California Supreme Court held that the hirer of a contractor cannot be vicariously liable for on the job injuries sustained by a contractor's employee resulting from a peculiar risk inherent in the work. In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to resolve a conflict between two appellate courts as to whether Privette also applies when the injured person is an independent contractor.

Defendant Fillner Construction, Inc. (Fillner) was the general contractor on a gas station project. Fillner contracted with Lane Supply to install a canopy at the project site. Ultimately, through subcontracts, Plaintiff Jeffrey Tverberg was hired to actually erect the canopy. At the same time, another subcontractor, Alexander Concrete, was hired to erect eight "bollards, " concrete posts intended to prevent vehicles from colliding with fuel dispensers. As Tverberg began his work to erect the canopy; Alexander started its' job by digging holes for the bollard footings. Tverberg was aware of the presence of the holes and had asked others to cover them up. On his second day on the job, Tverberg fell into one of the holes and was injured.

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