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Court orders more proceedings on injured subcontractor’s negligence lawsuit

October 29, 2014

Finding genuine issues of material fact exist in a negligence lawsuit as to the general contractor’s role in a subcontractor’s injury, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment and ordered further proceedings.

Gary Lamb worked for Kingdom Electric, a subcontractor on a convenience store construction project with Mid Indiana Service Co. Inc., as the general contractor. Lamb asked Mid Indiana’s sole employee at the construction site, John Conarro, to delay digging a trench for an electrical cable outside the building until Lamb installed a CT cabinet. He told Conarro he would get to it the next day.

The next day, the trench had been dug and Conarro told Lamb things had to get done and that “he had to dig it out.” Conarro asked Lamb if he could still install the cabinet; Lamb and his co-workers attempted to install the cabinet, but the trench partially collapsed, injuring Lamb.  

Lamb sued Mid Indiana and others to recover damages for his injuries. Mid Indiana moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.

Mid Indiana contended generally that as a general contractor it owed no duty to provide a safe place to work for Lamb. Lamb argued that Mid Indiana assumed such a duty by undertaking to dig the trench before Lamb could finish his work, thereby creating an unreasonable risk of injury for Lamb.

Conarro said in his deposition that he had the equipment and skill to dig the trench but he did not do it and didn’t know when it was dug. But there is evidence from which it could be inferred that either he dug the trench himself or directed someone to do it.

“Here, although the general contractor may not have assumed responsibility for providing a safe work place for all subcontractors, by its actions through Conarro it created a condition in the work place that posed an unreasonable risk of harm to Lamb. Thus, there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment for Mid Indiana,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote in Gary Lamb v. Mid Indiana Service Company, Inc., B2 Contractors, LLC, C&M Wrecking Inc., and C&M Trucking & Excavating Inc., 49A02-1404-CT-224.
 
 

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