Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds Summary Judgment to Homeowner in Carpenter’s Negligence Lawsuit

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to protect those who are hurt at work. However, different situations in the workplace can result in different outcomes. For example, someone who was working as an independent contractor may have a harder fight when attempting to seek payment for an on-the-job injury than a “regular” employee.

If you have been injured at work, you should understand both your legal rights and your own responsibilities, such as the giving of timely notice. Understanding what is required of both you and the entity for whom you were working at the time of the accident is important as you go about seeking the compensation to which you are entitled.

Please keep in mind that, even in the age of COVID-19, there are deadlines for filing claims. Failure to take timely legal action on a Cape Cod workers’ compensation injury case will likely mean that your right to pursue compensation will be deemed waived.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was carpenter who severed his thumb on a table saw (which he owned) while working on a home renovation project at the defendant homeowner’s house. The carpenter filed a negligence lawsuit against the homeowner, seeking to hold her liable for his injuries on the basis that the construction area in which he was working was unduly crowded. The homeowner filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that, as a matter of law, she was not legally responsible for the carpenter’s accident on her premises. In support of her motion, the homeowner pointed out that she had hired a general contractor to work on the project and that the general contractor had been the one who hired the contractor and had control over the project.

The trial court granted the homeowner’s motion, and the contractor appealed.

Decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court

The appellate court affirmed the lower tribunal’s ruling in favor of the homeowner. The court agreed that the record upon which the contractor relied in his opposition to the homeowner’s motion for summary judgment was insufficient to show that the homeowner had retained the type of control over the operative details and safety protocols of the project that would have been required in order for the homeowner to have been held liable for the contractor’s injuries. In so holding, the appellate tribunal relied in part upon the “general rule” that the employer of an independent contractor was not usually liable for physical harm caused to another by the contractor’s allegedly negligent actions.

In so holding, the court acknowledged that there were numerous exceptions to this general rule, perhaps to the point in which the rule was “general” only in the sense that it applied when there was no good reason for departing from it. Nevertheless, in the case at bar, the court agreed with the homeowner that, under the facts presented, she was not liable for the contractor’s injuries insomuch as the injury was caused by the carpenter’s misuse of his own saw and there was nothing in the record to connect any alleged property defect chargeable to the homeowner to the carpenter’s injury.

For a Free Case Review

Workers should not have to bear the burden of the staggering medical expenses and disability that can result from an on-the-job injury. However, each case must be evaluated on its own merits. It pays to have an aggressive legal advocate in your corner as you go through the process of seeking appropriate compensation for a work-related injury. At The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, we have helped many injured workers in the Cape Cod area, and we would be glad to take a look at your case and explain your legal rights going forward. For an appointment, call us at 888-262-6664; during the COVID-19 crisis, we are making adjustments to our usual business practices, including conducting client appointments by phone in some construction and worksite accident cases.

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