When Is a General Contractor Liable for Construction Jobsite Injuries?


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By: Garrett J. Bradley, Esq.

Published May 9, 2017

Construction accidents often present the most complicated type of personal injury claims. It is not always easy to figure out who is liable for jobsite injuries. Many large construction projects involve multiple contractors and subcontractors, each of whom may claim they are not at fault.

Judge Declines to Dismiss Claims Against UMass-Amherst General Contractor

For example, consider a case where a construction worker is injured due to a defective tool on the jobsite. In one such recent case, an ironworker injured by a defective fastening tool sued the manufacturer of the device, the company that sold it, and the general contractor for the construction project itself. The worker, in turn, was employed by one of general contractor’s subcontractors.

The distinction between general contractor and subcontractor is often critical. Under Massachusetts law, a general contractor is only liable for workplace injuries of this sort when it retains “meaningful supervisory control” of the subcontractor’s work, such as when a foreman oversees the entire jobsite. Whether such meaningful supervisory control existed depends on the particular facts of each case.

Here, the general contractor moved for summary judgment, asking basically for a declaration that the “undisputed facts” proved it did not exercise supervisory control over the subcontractor. The judge denied this motion. He said the victim presented enough evidence for a jury to conclude the general contractor retained at least “minimal” control over the subcontractor’s actions, notably with respect to worker safety, and could therefore be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

For instance, there was evidence the general contractor’s managers “were actively on-site conducting walkthroughs, safety talks, and safety briefings.” One manager said he had the authority “to order a subcontractor to either refrain or continue or alter the work that was being performed.” The judge also cited the general contractor’s agreement with its customer – the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – which expressly stated the contractor had “sole responsibility” for “maintaining and supervising all safety precautions and programs in connection” with the project.

Get Help From the Boston Construction Accident Attorneys at Thornton Law Firm

As you can see, construction accidents can raise complicated issues of both fact and law. If you have been injured on a construction site, either due to negligent safety precautions or defective equipment, you need to have lawyers on your side who have experience investigating such accidents and handling personal injury claims from start to finish. The Boston personal injury attorneys at Thornton Law Firm, LLP, are happy to speak with you about your case. Call us today at (888) 491-9726 to schedule a free consultation. or tell us your story online.

Thornton Law Firm Wins $2 Million Settlement For Construction Worker

By David J. McMorris, Esq.

Posted on March 29, 2013

Thornton Law Firm recently negotiated a 2 million dollar settlement for a 51 year-old client who was seriously injured in an 18 feet fall at a construction site in Massachusetts. The client suffered multiple fractures and nerve damage.

The general contractor and roofing contractor had cut a hole in the roof of the building, and covered it with an unmarked, unsecured sheet of plywood, in violation of OSHA safety regulations.

The case was filed at the Suffolk County Superior court, MA, and settled shortly before trial.

In addition to the settlement amount of $2,000,000, Thornton Law Firm was able to negotiate a waiver of a $300,000 workers’ compensation lien, so that our client would not have to reimburse the workers’ compensation insurer for his comp benefits. The client was represented by Thornton Law Firm lawyer David J. McMorris.

Thornton Law Firm attorneys have handled serious personal injury and products liability cases for our clients since 1978.

If you or a loved one has questions about your rights after an injury, call Thornton Law Firm to speak to an attorney experienced in handling serious personal injury cases. One of our lawyers will provide you with a free and confidential consultation. Call 1-888-491-9726 or tell us your story using our online contact form.

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