Washington Appellate Court Limits Liability for Personal Injury Claims Brought by Contractor’s Employee Against Landowners

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The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a landowner’s contractor’s employee for personal injuries that the plaintiff allegedly sustained while working on a construction site owned by the landowner. Citing Restatement (Second) of Torts §414 comment c, the court in Hymas v. UAP Distribution, Inc., 272 P.3d 889, Div. 3, March 08, 2012, held that a landowner could be liable for the injuries of contractors’ employees performing work on the landowner’s premise, but only if the landowner retained “at least some degree of control over the manner in which the work was done.” The court restated the general rule that whether the right to control has been retained depends on the parties’ contract, the parties’ conduct, “and other relevant factors.” The court held that this same standard of “retained control” applies to claims for violations of state worker safety laws and regulations. In this case, the court found that the landowner had not retained control over the worksite, and thus, could not be liable for injuries sustained by its contractor’s employees caused by violations in state worker safety laws.

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