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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. Please I need help with my class action lawsuits, im currently in pro-se and im having hard time findiNG A LAWYER TO ASSIST ME

  2. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  3. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

  4. I've been denied I appeal court date took a year my court date was Nov 9,2016 and have not received a answer yet

  5. Warsaw indiana dcs lying on our case. We already proved that in our first and most recent court appearance i need people to contact me who have evidence of dcs malpractice please email or facebook nathaniel hollett thank you

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