In Gonzalez v. Mathis (2021 WL 3671594) (“Gonzalez”), the Supreme Court of California held that a landowner generally owes no duty to an independent contractor or its workers to remedy or adopt other measures to protect them against known hazards on the premises. The Court applied the Privette doctrine which establishes a presumption that a landowner generally delegates all responsibility for workplace safety to its independent contractor. (See generally Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689; SeaBright Ins. Co. v. US Airways, Inc. (2011) 52 Cal.4th 590.) As such, the independent contractor is responsible for ensuring that the work can be performed safely despite a known hazard on the worksite, even where the contractor and its workers are unable to take any reasonable safety precautions to avoid or protect themselves from the known hazard.
In Gonzalez, the landowner, Mathis, had hired an independent contractor, Gonzalez, to clean a skylight on his roof. To access the skylight, Gonzalez needed to utilize a narrow path between the edge of the roof and a parapet wall. While walking along this path, Gonzalez slipped and fell to the ground, sustaining serious injuries. Gonzalez alleged this accident was caused by several dangerous conditions on the roof, including a slippery surface, a lack of tie-off points to attach a safety harness, and a lack of a guardrail. Gonzalez was aware of all of these hazards prior to the accident.
Reprinted courtesy of Krsto Mijanovic, Haight Brown & Bonesteel, Jeffrey C. Schmid, Haight Brown & Bonesteel and John M. Wilkerson, Haight Brown & Bonesteel
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