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Thomas v. Knapp

A-6231-97T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)

CONTRACTORS; NEGLIGENCE; LIABILITY—A property owner is under no duty to protect the employee of an independent contractor from the very hazard created by doing the contract work.

A satellite dish installer was told by a building tenant that there might be a problem with bees and was given a can of bee repellant spray. Using his own ladder, he climbed to the roof. As he began to work, a swarm of bees appeared. He instinctively backed away, spraying the repellant, but stepped on a fiberglass skylight and fell through the roof. The Court held that although, as a general rule, a landowner has “a non-delegable duty to use reasonable care to protect invitees against known or reasonably discoverable dangers,” a landowner “is under no duty to protect an employee of an independent contractor from the very hazard created by doing the contract work.” Here, the property owner could legitimately assume that the worker was sufficiently skilled to recognize the dangers of working on a roof containing fiberglass skylights and the danger of bee swarms. The panels were obvious and visible. Their lack of weight-bearing capacity and, consequently, the hazards of stepping upon them, were incidental to the work undertaken. Consequently, the satellite dish installer had no actionable claim against the property owner.


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