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Analuisa v. Richards

A-6669-03T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; LIABILITY; OSHA— A general contractor has a statutory duty to ensure the safety of all of a subcontractor’s employees and the intent of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and New Jersey’s Construction Safety Act is to protect all workers regardless of the employment identity or status of the worker.

A general contractor was hired by a property owner to demolish a building and construct a three bedroom duplex. The general contractor hired a subcontractor to perform asbestos removal work. While on the job, an employee of the subcontractor fell off a ladder and sustained multiple injuries. The employee filed a personal injury action against the subcontractor and the general contractor. The general contractor moved for summary judgment asserting that it owed no duty to the employee. In response, the employee, argued that the general contractor was responsible for ensuring that the work site was safe pursuant to general negligence liability law and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations. The lower court ruled that under OSHA regulations and general negligence principles the general contractor owed no duty to the employee and it granted summary judgment in favor of the general contractor. The employee then appealed the lower court’s ruling.

The Appellate Division reversed, holding that summary judgment is only appropriate in cases where there is no factual dispute. The Court found that there was an issue of law as to whether the general contractor owed a duty to the employee. In analyzing whether that duty existed here, the Court looked at the legislative intent behind the OSHA regulations and the New Jersey Construction Safety Act. It held that, in each case, the intent was to ensure the safety of all workers on a construction project regardless of each worker’s employment identity and status. It also cited to its prior ruling in Bortz v. Rammel, 151 N.J. Super. 312 (App. Div. 1977), where it held that a general contractor has a statutory obligation to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all of the subcontractor’s employees. As a result, the Court remanded the matter to the lower court on the basis that the general contractor owed a nondelegable duty to the employee to provide a safe work environment.

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