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OSHA Regulations Not Standard of Care Owed by Independent Contractor
Description Plumber's carelessness resulted in a fire that severely damaged a restaurant. Owners could not claim that negligent performance constituted a breach of express or implied warranty, nor could they use Michigan OSHA regulations as evidence of the standard of care to which an independent contractor should be held.
Topic Contracts
Key Words Breach, Independent Contractor, Negligent Performance, Regulatory Standards
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Plumber was repairing a water pipe in the ceiling of a restaurant when his propane torch caused a fire that caused almost $1 million in damages. "Plaintiffs brought a claim ... alleging ... negligent performance of plumbing services constituted a breach of express or implied warranty to perform services free from defects." The trial court granted defendant summary judgement on this claim and refused to allow plaintiffs to introduce provisions of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA) to establish that defendant breached a duty of care. Plaintiffs appealed.
Court of Appeals Decision Affirmed. Negligent performance under a contract may constitute a tort as well as a breach of contract, however, it does not constitute a breach of an implied or express warranty. Further, "MIOSHA regulations were enacted to promote safety in the workplace and, therefore, employees are required to follow certain safety regulations." "MIOSHA regulations are relevant evidence on the issue of an employee's comparative negligence." However, this case is for damage to property. "The application of the MIOSHA regulations in the manner suggested by the plaintiffs would establish the regulations as the measure of the standard of care owed by an independent contractor to its customer in preforming its services. Clearly, the MIOSHA was not intended to fill this purpose."
Citation Co-Jo, Inc. v. Strand, 572 N.W.2d 251 (Ct. App., Mich., 1997)

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