January 4, 2012
The California Supreme Court on Wed May 25 heard arguments in the case of Seabright v US Airways. The case is important because it concerns the issue of whether the hirer of an independent contractor should remain subject to liability to a contractor employee injured during the course of the work by a dangerous condition that existed before the work began. The hirer (US AIRWAYS) had failed to comply with an administrative General Safety Order that required special precautions, in this case the duty to guard 'pinch points' in a conveyor. A service technician had his arm injured badly when pulled into an unguarded pinch point while conducting routine maintenance on the conveyor. This is the issue of "non-delegable duty". Some duties may be delegated to contractors such as duties to take precautions that arise during and because of the work. The issue here is whether a pre-existing duty which attached to the hirer before the work may be delegated.