Indiana Court of Appeals Holds that a Construction Manager did not Owe a Duty to a Plumber’s Employee Injured on the Project
Facts: In Daniel Lee and Hui Luo Lee v. GDH, LLC, a plumber was severely injured when a gas line exploded while performing an air test on a gas line on a building project at Ivy Tech. GDH’s contract with Ivy tech required that it would provide recommendations and information regarding the allocation of responsibilities for safety programs among the contractors, review the safety programs developed by each of the contractors, coordinating the safety programs, and various other safety duties.
However, GDH’s contract also provided that its responsibilities for coordination of safety programs shall not extend to direct control over or charge of the acts or omissions of the Contractors, Subcontractors, agents or employees of the Contractors or Subcontractors, or any other persons performing portions of the Work and not directly employed by GDH.
Lee sued several parties involved in the project including GDH claiming it was responsible for Lee’s injuries.
Decision: The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision for Summary Judgment finding that GDH had no duty of care toward Lee.
The court held that GDH “contractually disclaimed any responsibility for the safety of contractors’ employees and specified that contractors would be responsible for administering safety programs in connection with their portions of the project,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote. “Based on the plain language of the contracts at issue, GDH did not contractually assume a duty of care for the employees of contractors. Rather, the contractors were responsible for the safety of their employees.”
The court also went on to hold that the fact that GDH had a safety coordinator for the project and held weekly meetings did not expand its duties because those tasks fell under its contractual duties with Ivy Tech and did not indicate that it assumed additional duties.
A note to take from this case is that if you are acting as a construction manager, make sure your contracts contain language that precludes liability for the safety of contractor’s and subcontractor’s employees on the project. It is always a good idea to contact your attorney to make sure you have the proper provisions included in your contracts.
By: Roy Rodabaugh