Can a property owner avoid liability for a dangerous condition created by a contractor?

by | Aug 1, 2019 | Firm News | 0 comments

In Maryland, a landowner cannot delegate the risk of its contractor’s non-performance in maintaining the safety of the premises: “Where one invites another to come onto premises ostensibly maintained by him, his duty to the invitee cannot be circumscribed by the employment of an independent contractor.  Rowley v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 305 Md. 456, 461 (1986) (quoting J. Dooley, Modern Tort Law § 17.05 at 422-23 (1982, 1985 Cum. Supp.)).

This is especially true when the independent contractor had been retained to engage in an inherently dangerous activity.  See Restatement of Torts (Second) at § 409, comment (b) (stating that principal is vicariously liable for contractor’s negligence for “work which is specially, peculiarly, or inherently dangerous”. 

This doctrine is fully set forth at § 417: “One who employs an independent contractor to do work in a public place which unless carefully done involves a risk of making the physical condition of the place dangerous for the use of members of the public is subject to liability for physical harm caused to members of the public by a negligent act or omission of the contractor which makes the physical condition of the place dangerous for their use”.

The principal’s non-delegable duty arises from the public policy that the principal should not be permitted to shift responsibility for safe performance of inherently dangerous work to the independent contractor.

 

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