Gonzalez v. Mathis, 2018 WL 718528 confirms the difficulties a defendant will face when trying to overcome the Kinsman exception to the Privette doctrine on a dispositive motion when dealing with an open and obvious hazard. There, a professional window washer fell off a roof while walking along a parapet wall constructed by the owner of a home.
The window washer filed suit against the homeowner and alleged three dangerous conditions on the roof: (1) the parapet wall forced those who needed to access a skylight to walk along an exposed two-foot ledge that lacked a safety railing; (2) dilapidated and slippery roof shingles; and (3) the lack of tie off points that would allow maintenance workers to secure themselves with ropes or harnesses. The homeowner filed a motion for summary judgment under Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689 and its progeny which prohibits an independent contractor from suing his or her hirer for workplace injuries (“Privette doctrine”).
There are two exceptions to the Privette doctrine. First, a hirer cannot avoid liability when he or she exercises control over the manner and means in which a contractor does his or her work and that control contributes to the injuries sustained – known as the “Hooker exception” (premised on the holding of Hooker v. Department of Transportation (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198). Second, a hirer may be found liable if he or she fails to warn the contractor of a concealed hazard on the premises – known as the “Kinsman exception” (premised on the holding of Kinsman v. Unocal Corp. (2005)).
Reprinted courtesy of Frances Ma, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Lawrence S. Zucker II, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
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