Recently I spoke before the Nebraska Council of Safety Professionals. Over the next few days I will out line some of the topics I discussed.
Construction accident litigation begins with a general rule:
Generally, the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another by the acts or omissions of the contractor or his servants. Sullivan v. Geo. A. Hormel and Co. 208Neb. 262 (1981).
This general rule recognizes that one who hires an independent contractor and does not participate in or control the manner in which the contractor’s work is performed owes no duty of care concerning the safety of the manner or method of performance implemented. See W. Prosser & W. Keaton, The Law of Torts 509 (5th ed. 1984). The rule appears to absolve all parties involved in construction projects from potential liability with the exception of a contractor who creates the particular hazard that causes injury or affirmatively directs the employer of the injured person regarding the unsafe work practice that causes the injury.
The general rule, however, is not without exceptions that expose construction entities to liability, even in the absence of affirmative conduct. The most notable of these exceptions are 1) the “retained control” exception, 2) the “direct liability” exception, and 3) the “nondelegable duty” exception.