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Judges split on construction manager's duty to injured worker

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge dissented from his colleagues’ majority holding, finding their ruling would “fundamentally alter contracts” dealing with safety on jobsites.

In The Hunt Construction Group, Inc., et al. v. Shannon D. Garrett, No. 49A02-1001-CT-86, The Hunt Construction Group appealed partial summary judgment in favor of Shannon Garrett on her vicarious liability claim and the denial of summary judgment for the construction company regarding its duty to Garrett. Garrett, an employee of Baker Concrete, was injured while working on Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Hunt Construction was hired by the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority to be the construction manager on the project. Hunt didn’t enter into a contract with Baker Concrete or other contractors.

The appellate panel agreed that the trial court erred in finding Hunt Construction was vicariously liable for the negligence of Baker Concrete. The trial court based its ruling on Garrett’s argument that Hunt Construction owed her a nondelegable duty – where a principal is by law or contract charged with performing the specific duty. Vicarious liability has generally been applied in the general contractor/subcontractor relationship in construction litigation cases, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. That general relationship doesn’t exist in this case as the ISCBA contracted separately with Hunt Construction and Baker Concrete.

But the judges were divided on whether Hunt Construction owed a duty to Garrett. The majority, after examining the contracts Hunt Construction entered into, found that many provisions gave the company significant duties regarding safety on the jobsite. It was responsible for approving contractors' safety programs, addressing safety violations, and had the ability to remove any employee or piece of equipment deemed unsafe. These provisions resulted in Hunt Construction assuming a duty to workers on the jobsite, including Garrett.

Judge Ezra Friedlander dissented on this matter, believing the majority disregarded the provisions that limited Hunt Construction’s duties regarding safety. His reading of the contract language as a whole clearly shows Hunt Construction didn’t assume a duty to Garrett by contract, he wrote. There are several limiting provisions, which are an unequivocal statement that the construction company wasn’t responsible for project safety and the safety of Baker Concrete’s employees.

“The Majority wholly ignores the clear import of these provisions and fails to give them effect, essentially rendering them ineffective and meaningless,” he wrote. “The Majority’s holding will fundamentally alter contracts of this nature and make it virtually impossible for a contractor taking on the role of construction manager to limit its liability so as not to become an insurer of safety for workers of other contractors.”

Imposing a duty of care on Hunt Construction for the safety of the employees of each contractor here is tantamount to making it an insurer of safety. The majority’s construction of the contractual provisions at issue undermines the framework often used in projects like this, he wrote.

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  • shame on them
    who stand up the working class,watching big corperate company play pass the buck (so to speak)shame on them.This is a person,doesn't her while-being matter. Our justice system needs to take a stand and stop allowing companies it away with this. One day it could be one of their family member in this

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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