SW Legal Educational Publishing

Liability to Independent Contractor Not Based on Possibility of Control
Description Supreme court of Texas held that an independent contractor's willingness to follow a premises owner's instructions, even though no instructions were given, is not sufficient evidence of the owner's right to control the contractor and assume liability for injuries suffered.
Topic Agency
Key Words Independent Contractor, Right to Control, Premise Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Lawrence, an employee of Campbell Construction, was killed when crushed by a crane. The accident happened at Coastal Marine, the owner of the crane, when Campbell employees were using the crane. Campbell was an independent contractor of Coastal and had worked on Coastal property and used the crane in question for two years before the accident. Lawrence's survivors sued Coastal in tort for negligence for a premises defect, contending that Coastal failed to warn independent contractors of dangers involved in using the crane. Jury found for Coastal; plaintiffs appealed. Appeals court reversed based on testimony of Campbell employees that they would have complied with any orders issued by Coastal. Coastal appealed.
Decision Reversed in favor of Coastal. A premises owner "has a duty to inspect the premises and warn the independent contractor/invitee of dangerous conditions that are not open and obvious and that the owner knows or should have known exist." When a dangerous condition arises as a result of the independent contractor's work, "the premises owner normally owes no duty to the independent contractor's employees because an owner generally has no duty to ensure that an independent contractor performs its work in a safe manner." The right to control that Coastal had did not result in it taking direct supervision of the work being performed in this case, so it is not liable.
Citation Coastal Marine Service of Texas v. Lawrence, Slip Copy (1999 WL 54546, Sup. Ct., Tex.)
988 S.W. 2d 223 (Sup. Ct., Tex., 1999)

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