General Not Liable for Injuries to Sub’s Employee

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

Frequently when a job site accident takes place involving an employee, plaintiff's lawyers are interested in suing many different parties associated with the project, particularly parties other than the employer who generally enjoys workers compensation immunity from all but intentional torts. In that circumstance, general contractors are often sued for injuries that occur to a subcontractor's employee.

In a recent case decided by the Belmont County Court of Appeals, the Court ruled that the general contractor on the sewer construction project owed no duty to the subcontractor's employee who had been killed in a trench simply because the general contractor held periodic meetings on safety issues and supervised the subcontractor's general activities - when he had no direct control over the work area or the subcontractor's work. Abbott v. Garrett (1999), 132 Ohio App.3d 729. The Court ruled that the primary responsibility for protecting the employees of a subcontractor lies with the subcontractor-employer. The Court emphasized that the general contractor did not grant or deny permission to subcontractor with respect to any critical act leading to the accident. If that kind of direction had been given by the general contractor, there may have been a different result in the case.

This case will be helpful to contractors who are sued by employees of other contractors or subcontractors on the job site and stands for the proposition that a contractor will not be liable simply because he has general supervisory duties or conducts job site meetings with respect to potentially hazardous work.