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Appeals court sides with estate of contractor killed on the job

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled an employer was liable for the safety of a subcontractor who fell from a ladder and sustained a fatal injury.

In Capitol Construction Services, Inc. v. Amy Gray, as Personal Rep. of the Estateof Clinton Gray and All One, Inc., No. 49A04-1005-CT-289, the appeals court held that Indiana common law states that employers do not have a duty to supervise the work of an independent contractor to assure a safe workplace and, consequently, employers are not liable for negligence by an independent contractor. But a handful of exceptions apply, and the COA held the trial court did not err in applying one of those exceptions in this case.

Capitol Construction Services hired All One Inc. – the employer of Clinton Gray – as a subcontractor. Gray was testing electrical lines approximatly 15 to 17 feet in the air on a portable ladder when he came in contact with live wires, fell and hit his head on the floor. He died as a result of the fall.

The trial court ruled, and the COA agreed, that per the terms of the contract between Capitol Construction and All One, Capitol had guaranteed to provide fall protection equipment for all workers – employees and subcontractors – when working above the height of six feet. Accordingly, the COA affirmed the trial court’s decision to award summary judgment in favor of Gray’s estate.

Judge Ezra Friedlander agreed but wrote a separate opinion to explain how his affirmation in this opinion is not contrary to his opinion in Hunt Constr. Grp., Inc. v. Garrett, 938 N.E.2d 794 (Friedlander, J., dissenting). Hunt is currently before the Indiana Supreme Court upon the grant of Hunt Construction Group’s petition for transfer.

In Hunt, Friedlander dissented from the majority opinion that Hunt was liable for a worker’s injuries. Hunt was the construction manager on a site where an employee of Baker Concrete was injured, and Friedlander stated that the contract between Hunt and Baker showed Baker would “remain the controlling employer responsible for the safety programs and precautions.”

 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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