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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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