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Electric cooperative owed no duty to injured contractor

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An independent contractor injured at a generating station owned by Bloomington-based Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative was unable to prove to the Indiana Court of Appeals that the electric cooperative was negligent regarding his injury.

Harold Haggerty worked for C&K Industrial Services, which contracted with Hoosier Energy to provide vacuuming and other services at a generating station in Sullivan County. While Haggerty and a co-worker were vacuuming dust from the station on Nov. 1, 2008, the co-worker lost control of his end of the hose, which hit Haggerty in face, causing pain and bleeding. Hoosier Energy didn’t own or control any of the equipment used by the men that evening.

Haggerty sued Hoosier Energy for negligence; the Sullivan Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of the cooperative.

The general rule in Indiana is that a principal isn’t liable for the negligence of an independent contractor, but five exceptions to this rule are recognized. Haggerty alleged that four applied: where the contract requires the performance of intrinsically dangerous work; where the principal is by law or contract charged with performing the specific duty; where the act will create a nuisance; and where the act to be performed will probably cause injury to others unless due precaution is taken.

But there isn’t anything inherently dangerous about vacuuming dust and the work being performed that evening would not be considered a nuisance, Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote in Harold Haggerty v. Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Merom Generating Station, 77A01-1206-CT-293.

Hoosier Energy couldn’t have reasonably foreseen or prevented the accident and the contract Hoosier Energy had with C&K did not show that the energy cooperative had control of Haggerty and his co-worker and were responsible for Haggerty’s safety.

“Because Hoosier Energy successfully negated the element of duty in Haggerty’s negligence claim, we find the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Hoosier Energy,” he wrote.

 

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