Massachusetts Court Explains Liability for Construction Accidents

Generally, in personal injury lawsuits filed in Massachusetts, the plaintiff will assert a negligence claim against the defendant. A core element of negligence is duty; absent proof that the defendant owed some obligation to the plaintiff, a plaintiff’s negligence claim cannot prevail. Duties typically arise out of the relationships between the parties, but they can arise under a statute or regulation as well. Recently, a Massachusetts court analyzed what duty a general contractor owes an employee of its subcontractor in a case in which the court ultimately determined that no duty was owed. If you sustained injuries in an incident brought about by someone else’s negligence, you could be owed compensation, and it is in your best interest to confer with a Cape Cod personal injury attorney regarding your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Injuries

It is alleged that the plaintiff was working as a framer on a construction project when he fell from a scaffold, injuring his leg and foot. The plaintiff, who was employed by a subcontractor, brought negligence claims against the general contractor. The parties waived their right to a jury trial, and a bench trial was conducted. After the plaintiff presented his case, the defendant moved for involuntary dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(b)(2). The trial judge granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Duties General Contractors Owe to Employees of Their Subcontractors

On appeal, the appellate court noted that the trial court granted the defendant’s motion on the grounds that it did not owe any duty to the plaintiff. In Massachusetts, four elements comprise negligence: a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a breach of the duty, actual harm, and a connection between the harm suffered and the defendant’s breach.

The appellate court explained that in most instances, general contractors do not owe any duties to the employees of their subcontractors. Duties will be imposed if they retain control over the nature of the employee’s work, give them tools to complete the work, or directs how the work should be completed. In the subject case, the plaintiff did not argue that the retaining control exception applied, and there was no evidence in support of the imposition of a duty under that theory. Instead, the plaintiff argued that the defendant had a duty to comply with OSHA regulations, and the failure to do so constituted negligence. The court rejected this reasoning and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Cape Cod Attorney

While in most negligence claims, the duty the defendant owes the plaintiff is to act with reasonable care, there may be other obligations imposed on a defendant depending on the facts of the case. If you were hurt because of someone else’s careless behavior, you might be able to recover damages, and you should meet with an attorney. The experienced personal injury lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.

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