• Gage v. Coll. of N.J.
  • April 30, 2019 | Author: Charles W. Skriner
  • Law Firm: Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Hampton Office
  • New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division

    No. A-3787-17T1, 2019 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 657

    Decided: March 22, 2019

    Landowner college did not have duty of care to injured independent contractor when the landowner did not direct, supervise, or manage the contractor’s work.

    Background

    Defendant College of New Jersey (TCNJ) contracted with A&J Construction to replace steam pipes on campus. Defendant David Jurkin worked for TCNJ as its project engineer. Plaintiff Gage, who had extensive experience digging and laying pipes, worked for A&J. A&J made arrangements for the delivery of a metal trench box to stabilize the area where Plaintiff had been working. Plaintiff did not wait for the trench box to arrive, although he knew it was on the way, but instead worked in the ditch without it and was injured when the trench collapsed.

    There was no evidence in the record showing that Defendants directed, supervised, or managed A&J’s work. On the contrary, Plaintiff’s co-workers testified that Defendant Jurkin left the ways, means, and methods of the work to A&J, an experienced, qualified, and capable contractor. Plaintiff himself testified that A&J’s superintendent told him where to work. The evidence revealed that Jurkin occasionally visited the job site to perform periodic inspections of work and materials but that he did not direct how A&J performed its work or act as a foreman. The Trial Court granted summary judgment to Defendants, concluding that they owed Plaintiff no duty of care.

    Holding

    The Appellate Division affirmed. Although a landowner generally 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. This exception applies unless the landowner retains control over the manner and means by which the work is to be performed, or where the work constitutes a nuisance per se, or where one knowingly engages an incompetent contractor. As none of these exceptions applied, Defendants were entitled to judgment in their favor.

    Questions about this case can be directed to Charles Skriner, at (908) 574-0513 or [email protected]