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Under Texas law, a property owner had no liability for the injuries sustained by a laborer employed by the contractor since the owner did not retain any control over the manner in which the work was performed, and it had no actual knowledge of the danger or condition that resulted in the laborer being injured.  An employee of the contractor fell from a ladder while constructing a store on land owned by Lee & Chang Partnership (“Lee”).  The laborer argued that Texas law should not be applied to protect Lee from liability because the statute was only intended to apply if the individual was injured by the very same improvement he had worked on.  In this case, the individual worked on an air conditioner unit.  He argued he wasn’t injured by that unit or while working on the unit, but rather by falling from a ladder that he used to reach the roof where the air conditioning unit was located.

The court rejected the laborer’s clever argument, holding that the protection afforded to the owner by the statute is not limited to situations where the defective condition is the object of the contractor’s work.  In this case the evidence showed the owner didn’t know of the defect concerning the use of the ladder, but that the employees of the contractor knew of the danger and used the ladder anyway.  Owner’s only duty would have been to warn of any known dangers, and since it knew of no danger, it didn’t violate any duty to warn.  Kevin Fisher v. Lee & Change, 16 S.W.3d 198 (Tex. App, 4/20/00).

About the author: Article written by J. Kent Holland, Jr.,  a construction lawyer located in Tysons Corner, Virginia,  with a national practice (formerly with Wickwire Gavin, P.C. and now with Construction Risk Counsel, PLLC) representing design professionals, contractors and project owners.  He is founder and president of a consulting firm, ConstructionRisk, LLC, providing consulting services to owners, design professionals, contractors and attorneys on construction projects.  He is publisher of ConstructionRisk.com Report and may be reached at Kent@ConstructionRisk.com or by calling 703-623-1932.  This article is published in ConstructionRisk.com Report, Vol. 2, No. 12 (Dec 2000).

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