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Avoid liability for contractor’s actions by staying out of its business

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Consider this scenario: Your organization needs to have repairs done to your premises and you hire an independent contractor to do the job. When one of the workers is hurt after the contractor ignores obvious safety hazards, is your organization on the hook if the injured employee looks around for deep pockets to sue?

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on how much control you assert over the repair work and the details of the contract.

That’s why it’s important to get expert help before signing an agreement and then stay out of the details of how the job is done.

Recent case: Stephen Saunders was working on a roofing job for his employer—a contractor—when he stepped into a skylight and fell 40 feet. He was permanently disabled and collected workers’ compensation benefits. He then sued the property owner under Georgia state law.

He argued that the property owner was liable because he had hired “an unqualified, understaffed and inexperienced contractor,” and then didn’t make the premises safe for that contractor’s employees.

The court ruled against Saunders. It said that because the property owner turned over the full details of how the roof work was to be done to the contractor, the property owner was no longer responsible for making the premises safe. It would have been different if the property owner had told the contractor how to do his job. (Saunders v. Industrial Metals, No. A07-A0038, Court of Appeals of Georgia, 2007) 

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