Q: As a homeowner, I am concerned about accidents that may happen when contractors and their employees are working on my house. Do I have any liability as a homeowner if someone who is working on my property is injured?
Bob, Florence, AL
A: The general rule is that a premises owner, in this case, a homeowner, owes no duty to an employee of an independent contractor if an employee of a contractor is injured on the homeowner’s property. This general rule, however, is subject to a few exceptions. If an injured employee is able to establish that the homeowner retained the right to control how the contractor performed his work, the relationship changes from one of homeowner and contractor to master and servant. A master-servant relationship is not created, however, when the homeowner merely supervises or inspects the work of the contractor. Another exception relates to the homeowner's duty to warn of hidden dangers. If a defect or danger is hidden and known to the owner, and the contractor does not know (or ought to know in the exercise of reasonable care) the homeowner has a duty to warn the contractor and its employees.
Simply put, as a homeowner, with very limited exceptions, you owe no duty to a contractor and/or the contractor’s employees if they are injured while working at your home or on your property. With regard to the master-servant exception, the decisions of our Courts are as varied as the numerous fact scenarios. Needless to say, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to establish that the homeowner retains the right of control over the manner in which the independent contractor and his employees do their work.
The only other exception requires that the homeowner use common sense. If you know of a hidden danger and you know that there is no way your contractor will find out about it if you don’t tell them, let them know.
Remember, it is always a good practice to maintain homeowner’s insurance just in case some issue like this arises.
Buckle up, wash your hands, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!