Part 1 of our series on prime contractors’ liability for the actions of subcontractors published last month. The post covered the “meddlesome employer” doctrine, which makes the prime contractor liable for the subcontractor’s actions if he or she becomes too involved in the subcontractor’s work. The meddlesome employer doctrine is an exception to the rule that prime contractors are not liable for the negligence of subcontractors they hire to complete work.
There is another notable exception to this rule. This exception, which we cover below, is known as the “inherently dangerous activity” doctrine.
What is an Inherently Dangerous Activity?
Florida case law has largely shaped the commonly accepted definition of “inherently dangerous activities”. As its name suggests, it is a danger inherent in the work the subcontractor has been hired to perform. An inherently dangerous activity is likely to result in physical injury if proper precautions are not taken. That last part is important for prime contractors to understand—there must have been a lack of reasonable precautions taken against the special danger.
The prime contractor must have known that the danger posed by the subcontractor’s work was inherent in the job duties and obligations. If all pertinent factors are present, the prime contractor might be liable for physical harm caused by the subcontractor’s actions.
What are some examples of inherently dangerous activities? A few situations stand out. Operating a crane, clearing debris from land by fire or other destructive methods, and dealing with exceptionally high-voltage wires all generally rise to the level of an inherently dangerous activity.
Situations that Florida courts have held do not rise to the level of an inherently dangerous activity include a tractor-trailer that is parked on the shoulder of a highway but is slightly over the white line and removing tiles from a roof deck.
An inherently dangerous activity faced by a prime contractor is considered a “non-delegable duty”. A non-delegable duty is an obligation that the prime contractor could never legitimately pass off to a subcontractor in the first place. There are other non-delegable duties which ultimately make a prime contractor liable for some actions of a subcontractor. Next month’s blog, Part 3 of our series on contractors’ liabilities for subcontractors in Florida, will focus on two other non-delegable duties.
A Construction Firm That Has Your Back
The question of whether or not a prime contractor is liable for bodily injury, property damage, or other results of negligence by a subcontractor is often an incredibly complex matter. Florida Construction Law Group’s focus is on helping construction firms and other parties resolve their legal matters and, if possible, help prevent issues in the first place. Call us at (305) 227-4030 to discuss your needs today.