NEGLIGENCE-SLIP AND FALL-INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS-RETAINED CONTROL EXCEPTION

March 30th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Negligence

Santiago v. Wegmans Food Market, Inc., t/d/b/a Wegmans, Wegmans Retail Service Center, Wegmans Distribution Center, No. 16-CV-1529 (C.P. Lackawanna February 2, 2018) Nealon, J.  In this slip & fall case against commercial landowner by the employee of an independent contractor that was retained by that property owner to provide janitorial services, the owner filed a motion for summary judgment.  The basis of the summary judgment is that it allegedly owed no duty of care to the employee since a landowner who retains an independent contractor cannot be vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor or its employees.  Under the “retained control” exception to that theory of non-liability, a property owner who entrusts work to an independent contractor remains subject to liability if its contract with the independent contractor grants the premises owner control over the manner, method and operative details of the independent contractor’s work.  Based upon the comprehensive terms of the janitorial services contract, the landowner dictated how the contractor’s cleaning services were to be performed, what products and equipment were to be used, when designated tasks were to be completed, and the exact manner in which that work was to be accomplished.  As a result of the extensive control that the premises owner retained with regard to the operative details of the contractor’s janitorial work, a triable issue of fact exists as to whether the requisite quantum of control was retained so as to expose the landowner’s liability.  Therefore the property owner’s motion for summary judgment will be denied.