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

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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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  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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