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Contractor owed no duty to worker injured during construction of Carmel arts center

October 10, 2013

Summary judgment for a contractor on the Carmel Regional Performing Arts Center construction was appropriate, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled, rejecting an injured worker’s argument that a duty was owed to him based on federal workplace safety regulations.

Nathan Ferguson worked for General Piping Inc. when he walked across a temporary wooden walkway on the project site. It broke, causing him to injure his knee. Ferguson and his wife, Deanna, sued contractor Poynter Sheet Metal and 14 other defendants for damages and loss of consortium. The trial court granted summary judgment for Poynter on the issue of whether the company owed Ferguson any duty to refrain from creating or permitting a hazardous condition at the project site.

On appeal, the Fergusons contended that Poynter, as a contractor at the worksite, had a duty to abide by Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations. The Fergusons claim that Poynter’s duty arose from the contract between Poynter and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission because OSHA requirements are federal regulations.

“The trial correctly found that Poynter did not have a duty of care arising by contract to Nathan. Poynter’s contract specifically provided that Poynter was responsible for ‘all safety precautions and programs in connection with the Work and shall take all necessary precautions for the safety of, and provide the necessary protection to prevent damage, injury or loss to (i) all employees on the Work and other persons and organizations who may be affected thereby,’” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote in Nathan and Deanna Ferguson v. Shiel Sexton Company, Inc., WR Dunkin & Son, Inc., Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve, Inc., et al., 29A05-1301-CT-8. “Of note is the use of the word ‘Work’ instead of ‘Project.’”

But the Fergusons claimed that Poynter had a contractual duty to comply with OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy, CPL 02-00-124. But their argument failed because Poynter was not a creating, exposing, correcting, or controlling employer under the policy. The Fergusons could not establish the trial court erred by granting summary judgment on the issue of duty of care.
 

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