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Landowner Not Liable for Injuries Suffered by Independent Contractor
Description Trial court dismissed a suit filed by an independent contractor who was doing survey work on a large construction site and fell into a pit and was injured. Since the landowner did not retain significant control of the construction process and the risk was not peculiar, the landowner cannot be held liable.
Topic Agency
Key Words Independent Contractor; Negligence; Risk; Control
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Olin, a surveyor, worked for Welliver, a general contractor. Welliver was responsible for a large construction job on property owned by Logue and Ward. While Olin was surveying the land, he fell into an excavation pit and suffered injuries. He sued the landowners for negligence. The property owners moved for summary judgment.
Decision Motion granted. Under Pennsylvania law, although the general rule is that a landowner is not liable to persons injured through an independent contractor's negligence, there are two exceptions: (1) the landowner retains significant control over the work delegated to the independent contractor, and (2) the landowner may be liable under the "Peculiar Risk Doctrine" regarding dangerous work in the absence of special precautions and on negligence as to the danger inherent in the work. These do not apply here. While the property owners had general oversight of the construction project, they did not monitor it in detail and did not retain significant control over work delegated to independent contractors. The pit that Olin fell into was not so out-of-the-ordinary as to create a peculiar risk of harm for which the property owner could be held liable.
Citation Olin v. George E. Logue, Inc., 2000 WL 1610619 (M.D. Pa., 2000)

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