Maryland Plaintiff Proceeds with Suit Against Water Utility for Injuries Caused by Negligent Subcontractor

In some Maryland personal injury cases, a business employer may be responsible for injuries caused by the carelessness of their employees.  When an independent contractor or state or government entity is involved, however, there may be specific legal concepts to consider.  In a January 23, 2019 Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff appealed after the circuit court dismissed his claims against a local sanitary commission for the negligence of an independent subcontractor.

The plaintiff in the case was injured in an accident that occurred when his vehicle hit a manhole that was only partially covered.  The plaintiff sued to recover damages from the local sanitary commission, which was responsible for the manhole cover.  The commission argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the negligence of a subcontractor of an independent contractor that it hired.  The commission claimed it had no control over the subcontractor and, therefore, could not be vicariously liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In Maryland, the general rule is that the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for the negligence of the contractor or his employees.  However, there are a number of exceptions to the general rule that would extend liability to those who hire independent contractors.  These exceptions include the employer’s negligence in selecting or supervising the contractor, non-delegable duties of the employer to the public or a particular plaintiff, and work that is inherently dangerous.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant had a non-delegable duty to the public to ensure the proper and safe replacement of manhole covers on public roads, and that if the job is not done carefully, by placing barriers or warning signs when the covers have been removed, a clear danger to the public is created.

On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland explained that “inherently dangerous” activity encompasses work that, by its nature, creates a risk of injury to others unless special precautions are taken.  The court further noted that excavations in or near a public highway, and construction or repair work on adjoining buildings have been found inherently dangerous by other Maryland courts.

In reviewing the facts of the case, the court found that the work contracted out by the defendant involved a public road, that the defendant presumably knew that the manhole covers would need to be removed, and that if they were removed without warning signs or barriers, a serious danger would exist.  Accordingly, the court held that there was a jury question of whether the defendant could delegate such work to an independent contract and escape liability from injuries that may arise.

If you have been hurt in a car or motorcycle accident, the Maryland auto injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can offer legal guidance.  We represent victims of negligence and their loved ones in personal injury and wrongful death cases against careless drivers and other people or businesses who may be liable.  To learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced accident attorneys by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiff Wins Appeal to Pursue Car Accident Claim That Originated Ten Years Ago, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 14, 2018

Maryland Plaintiff Wins Negligence Suit Against County for Injuries Caused by Water Meter, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published January 27, 2019

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