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Construction manager owed no duty to injured independently contracted employee

January 22, 2015

Based on the contracts between Ivy Tech Community College, the contract manager it hired and an independent contractor, no duty of care existed between the contract manager and the employees of contractors, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

Daniel Lee, a plumber, was employed by Project Design & Piping Inc., which entered into a contract with Ivy Tech to perform work on a building project at Ivy Tech’s Logansport campus. Ivy Tech contracted with GDH LLC as contract manager. GDH did not have a contract with PD&P.

While performing an air test to detect any leaks on a gas line, an explosion occurred and Lee was severely injured. He and his wife sued several parties, including GDH, alleging negligence and loss of consortium. The grant of summary judgment in favor of GDH is at issue in Daniel Lee and Hui Luo Lee v. GDH, LLC, 49A04-1404-CT-175.

Citing Hunt Constr. Group Inc. v. Garrett, 964 N.E.2d 222, 225 (Ind. 2012), the Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for GDH. The Indiana Supreme Court in Hunt held that when an independent contractor’s employee alleges that a construction manager had a duty of care toward the employee, the court must first determine whether a contract to which the construction manager was a party imposed such a duty of care.

As was the case in Hunt, GDH “contractually disclaimed any responsibility for the safety of contractors’ employees and specified that contractors would be responsible for administering safety programs in connection with their portions of the project,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.

“Based on the plain language of the contracts at issue, GDH did not contractually assume a duty of care for the employees of contractors. Rather, the contractors were responsible for the safety of their employees.”

The Lees raised several other arguments as to why GDH should be found to have assumed a duty of care, but the COA rejected them. It did not matter that GDH had a safety coordinator for the project and held weekly meetings with contractors on topics, including safety, because those tasks fell under its contractual obligation to Ivy Tech and did not indicate assumption of additional duty of care.



 

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