Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a casino could be held liable for the injuries sustained by an independent contractor when he fell from a ladder while working on the building’s roof. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to show that the defendant casino was in “operational control” over the plaintiff’s actions.
The case raises an important issue that frequently arises in many Maryland personal injury cases involving claims filed by independent contractors or claims based on an independent contractor’s negligence.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff worked for a maintenance company that was contracted by the defendant casino to clean the casino’s air ducts. The air ducts were located on the roof of the casino, and prior to the beginning of the contract the casino specified where the maintenance workers would access the roof.
The casino consisted of multiple buildings and a large boat. The boat was not connected to the main building of the casino, and was separated by a small two- or three-foot gap. The casino explained that maintenance workers should climb a ladder that connected the casino to the boat in order to access the boat’s roof. The plaintiff’s employer objected to the arrangement, claiming that it seemed too dangerous and proposed the casino build out a platform to connect the two roofs. The casino rejected the proposal, citing budgetary concerns.
One day, the plaintiff was crossing from the roof of the main building to the roof of the boat when the ladder gave way. The plaintiff fell approximately 50 feet below, and sustained serious injuries. Due to the nature of his injuries, the plaintiff lacked a firm remembrance of what exactly happened in the moments before he fell.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the casino. The casino argued that it did not place the ladder on the roof and did not supervise the work of the plaintiff, and thus could not be held liable. The trial court agreed, granting the casino’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the case was reversed. The court explained that while the general rule is that a company cannot be held liable for the actions of an independent contractor, there are exceptions. One exception, the court explained, was when the company was in operational control of the contractor’s actions. Here, the court held that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence suggesting that the casino retained operational control over his work. The court noted that the casino told the plaintiff’s employer where workers were able to access the roof and how they would they could get to the roof. Additionally, the casino rejected the proposed plan to create a safer alternative to get up on the roof. The court also noted that both parties denied placing the ladder on the roof.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. This may even be the case if you were injured while on the job. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience assisting injury victims and their families recover compensation for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
The Importance of Following the Procedural Requirements in Cases Against the Government, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 27, 2018.
Slip-and-Fall Accidents at Maryland Retail Stores and Shopping Centers, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 3, 2018.