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Maryland Construction Worker Files Personal Injury Suit After Falling in Trench

Employers and landowners generally have a duty to keep the property safe for individuals hired to perform work on the premises.  In a May 12, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff sued the owners of a manufacturing plant after falling into a trench on the property.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on appeal by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case worked for an independent contractor, who was hired by the defendants to renovate the floor and trench system of their manufacturing plant.  One day, the plaintiff’s supervisor instructed him to see someone working in a different building of the plant.  Once the plaintiff entered the building, he saw someone struggling with a piece of plywood and went to assist him.  The plaintiff picked up one end of the plywood and as he stepped forward, he fell into a two-foot trench.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the plant owners, alleging negligence.

In Maryland, employers of independent contractors must adhere to the safe workplace doctrine.  Under the doctrine, the employer must warn the employee of any concealed or latent dangers, of which the employer knows or should know with the exercise of ordinary care.  However, an employer or premises owner can discharge their duty to warn employees of an independent contractor by notifying the independent contractor or his supervisory employees of the latent danger.

In the case, the defendants were the employers of the independent contractor for whom the plaintiff worked.  The appeals court noted that the defendants issued a safe work permit to the independent contractor on a daily basis, which warned of the hazards associated with the job.  The permit also instructed the independent contractor that open trenches had to be covered for safety reasons.  The court of appeals held this was sufficient to establish that the defendants had discharged their duty to provide a safe workplace to the independent contractor that employed the plaintiff.

The plaintiff next argued that the defendants were nevertheless liable for his injuries because they had control over the safety procedures attendant to the activities of the building.  The appeals court agreed that, if an employer of an independent contractor retains sufficient control over the details of the work the employee was hired to perform, the employer can be held liable for damages of an employee of an independent contractor.  However, the court found no evidence that the defendants in the case retained any such control.  Moreover, the court found that the independent contractor in the case was responsible for maintaining the safety of the building.  The court therefore affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.

If you suffered injuries as a result of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation from the person responsible for your accident.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., we can provide trustworthy advice and representation to negligence victims and their families.  Our Maryland personal injury lawyers handle auto accident, premises liability, medical malpractice, and other injury cases caused by negligent parties.  Schedule a consultation regarding your personal injury by calling Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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