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Bennett v. Cedar Brook Corporation

2004 WL 1557486 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; LIABILITY—Where a general contractor does not have control of a job site and is unaware of any missing tools, it is not liable to a subcontractor’s employee who is injured while fashioning a needed tool.

A subcontractor’s employee was injured when a pipe hanger he was trying to make into a tool by hammering it, flew up and cut his eye. The employee argued that the contractor owed him a duty of care to ensure his safety by requiring him to wear safety glasses at the job site. The lower court dismissed the employee’s case and he appealed. The employee relied on an Appellate Division case where that court found that a general contractor’s duty to assure the safety of a subcontractor’s employee extended to the safety of the equipment supplied by the subcontractor and used at the contractor’s work site. In that case, an employee of the contractor owned the subcontractor, and the contractor was present at the job site when the accident occurred. Also, the contractor attempted to repair the equipment on the day before the accident. That earlier Court weighed the feasibility of harm, the relationship between the parties, and the opportunity and capacity to correct the problem. It found that, based on the contractor’s knowledge that the equipment was defective, its attempts to fix the defect, and its knowledge of the danger and risk of injury if the equipment malfunctioned, the contractor owed a duty of care to the subcontractor’s employee. In the case at hand, the Court found that the contractor did not control the job site (as had the contractor in the other case) and was unaware of the missing tool. Here, the subcontractor, the employee’s direct employer, was responsible for providing tools at the site. Further, the job, if done correctly, would not have required the use of safety glasses. The contractor, having no control of the job site, could not reasonably foresee the risk of this injury at the site.

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