New Ruling Modifies Privette Case Law: Seabright Insurance Company v. U.S. Airways, Inc.


There has been much confusion in the business community as to when a company is liable for workplace injuries sustained by the employee of an independent contractor as a result of the company's failure to comply with Cal-OSHA requirements and regulations. However, on August 22, 2011, the California Supreme Court brought much needed clarity to this issue. In Seabright Insurance Company v. U.S. Airways, Inc., the Court determined that a company cannot be held liable for injuries to an independent contractor's employee resulting from the company's failure to comply with Cal-OSHA regulations or statutes - as this duty to such employees is presumptively delegated to the independent contractor.

In Seabright, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of U.S. Airways based upon the Privette decision and it's progeny - and determined that there was no evidence that U.S. Airways affirmatively contributed to a work site accident involving an independent contractor's employee. The appellate court reversed, finding that U.S. Airways had nondelegable duties to ensure a safe workplace under Cal-OSHA and that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether their failure to perform this duty affirmatively contributed to the employee's injuries.

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