Ind. court determines which contractors can be sued for shower of metal studs

After hundreds of pounds of metal studs rained from the sky during a construction project, the Indiana Court of Appeals has decided which companies can be held responsible for the injuries that subsequently occurred.

On Aug. 24, the court found the general contractor can’t be found liable but left open the chance of a subcontractor paying for the injuries of plaintiff Joshua Towe, who was working on a project in Marion County.

During construction of an ironworks, three employees who were unloading bundles of metal studs that weighed 1,000 pounds each found themselves in danger as the studs fell from the sky.

They had been left on a boom crane that had a leak in a hydraulic line, causing it to tip and drop the studs.

The project’s chain of command relevant to the lawsuit:

-Property owner Hendricks Commercial Properties;

-Shiel Sexton, general contractor;

-Circle B, subcontractor hired to build part of the Ironworks; and

-Rose and Walker Supply Indianapolis, subcontractor hired to deliver the studs.

Towe was sent to Rose and Walker Supply by his employer on temporary assignment.

Shiel Sexton won its argument that it did not owe a duty to protect Towe, and the trial court has been instructed to enter summary judgment for it. Circle B, however, wasn’t as lucky.

Governing the claim against Shiel Sexton was its master contract with Hendricks Commercial Properties. It said the safety and health of its employees and subcontractors would be the sole responsibility of Shiel Sexton. Towe claimed this was binding because of other provisions in the contract.

“Contrary to Towe’s assertions, the facts that Hendricks made clear in the work order that it wanted to be part of the process of hiring subcontractors and vendors – because there was a maximum cost for the project that could not be exceeded – and that Hendricks made clear that Shiel Sexton would be responsible for payment of any liens for labor or materials that might be placed on the property, do not require us to read Article 10.1’s reference to Contractor being solely responsible for the health and safety of ‘Contractor’s employees, subcontractors and agents’ to include every possible sub-subcontractor or vendor of a subcontractor,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

But Circle B, which hired the subcontractor that sent to Towe to the worksite, will have to continue fighting the case thanks to safety provisions in its agreement that could be found to have been violated, the court found.

This article was first published in Legal Newsline.

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