Thursday, January 4, 2024

Court Addresses Retained Control Doctrine in Workplace Accident Case

In the case of Covanta v. D’Amico, Nov. Term 2019, No. 01334 (C.P. Phila. Co. June 22, 2023 Bright, J.), a trial court issued a Rule 1925 Opinion regarding its denial of post-trial motions in a third party liability case arising out of a workplace accident.

Of note, among the sixteen (16) claims of error addressed by the trial court were issues regarding whether a landowner Defendant who engages an independent contractor to perform work on the landowner’s property is liable for injuries to the independent contractor’s employees. In this regard, the trial court reviewed the doctrine of retained control.

After reviewing the record before it, the court found that the evidence established that the landowner did indeed regain control over the project which resulted in the Plaintiff’s injuries. In this regard, the court pointed to the landowner’s long-term history of control over the contractor’s various projects, the terms of the contract with the contractor, and the events involved in the subject incident.

The court pointed to the Restatement (Second) of Torts relative to the retained control exception to non-liability of a landowner who engages in independent contractor who has employee injured on the job.

Under the retained control exception, one who entrusts work to an independent contractor, but who retains control of any part of the work, remains subject to potential liability for physical harm to others for whose safety the employer owes a duty to exercise reasonable care, which is caused by his failure to exercise his control with reasonable care. 

 The court noted that this central issue to be determined in this regard is whether the employer/landowner retained control of the means and the methods of the work to be completed. In other words, did the employer/landowner successfully delegate the duty to the independent contractor to complete the entire job, or did the employer/landowner retain certain authority over the job.

As noted, the trial court had denied post-trial motions in this case.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Nov. 29, 2023).

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