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Third Party Injury Claims for Independent Contractors

Posted on in BGL Law
Third Party Injury Claims for Independent ContractorsConstruction workers who have suffered on-site injuries can seek multiple forms of compensation. They may be eligible for worker's compensation benefits through their employers, and third parties may be liable for personal injury damages. To receive damages, the plaintiff must establish that the third party's negligence was responsible for the injury. A recent Illinois Supreme Court case considered whether a company that hired an independent contractor is liable for a catastrophic injury to a worker.

Case Details

In Carney v. Union Pacific Railroad Road, the defendant accepted a bid from an independent contractor to dismantle three railroad bridges in Chicago. The independent contractor brought on an experienced subcontractor to help with the project, which the defendant claims it was not aware of. The plaintiff, who is the son of the subcontracting company's owner, was employed as an additional laborer on the project when a girder fell and severed his legs. The plaintiff received worker's compensation through his employer and reached a personal injury settlement with the independent contractor. The plaintiff also sought damages from the defendant, citing Illinois construction negligence laws in claiming that the defendant:

  • Was liable because it maintained control over the project;
  • Was negligent in selecting the independent contractor; and
  • Failed to warn its contractor of a hazard that contributed to the accident.

An Illinois trial court granted the defendant's request for a summary judgement, based on the plaintiff's claims lacking fact. An appellate court overturned that decision, saying that there were enough doubts about the facts of the case to require a trial. The Supreme Court considered the plaintiff's three claims before siding with the trial court's decision.

Project Control

Illinois law states that a company that hires an independent contractor is not liable for the contractor's negligence, unless the company also has control over the project. Many independent contractor agreements allow the contractor to manage the project. The hiring company controls the project if it instructs the contractor on how to perform the job or consistently supervises the work. The Supreme Court found that the defendant did not give any specific instructions on project.

Negligent Hiring

If a hiring company is negligent in selecting a qualified contractor, it may be liable for any injuries sustained by a third party. The lower courts found reason to doubt whether the independent contractor was qualified to perform the project. However, the Supreme Court determined that the law does not apply to the plaintiff because he was an employee of the subcontractor, not a third party.

Dangerous Conditions

The owner of a property is responsible for informing guests of any hazards that the owner would have reason to know but the guest would not. The plaintiff claims that the defendant should have warned the workers about a buried steel plate that caused the plaintiff to slide under the falling girder. The Supreme Court said the defendant had no reason to know the size or location of the steel plate because it did not build or use the bridge.

Construction Site Damages

Though the Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff, Illinois law can hold third party employers liable for construction site injuries. A McHenry County personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can determine whether a third party may be negligent in your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.



Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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