Privette: The “Affirmative Contribution” Exception, How Far Does It Go?

Construction workers injured on site

The Privette rule is subject to a number of exceptions including the “peculiar risk” exception, the “nondelegable duty” exception and the “affirmative contribution” exception.

August 10, 2020
Courtney Arbucci, Peter A. Dubrawski & Austin F. Smith - Haight Brown & Bonesteel

In Horne v. Ahern Rentals, Inc. (No. B299605, filed 6/10/2020 ord. publ. 6/10/2020), Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against Defendant Ahern Rentals, Inc. (“Ahern”) arising out of the fatal incident involving Ruben Dickerson (“decedent”), while employed by independent contractor 24-Hour Tire Service, Inc. Decedent was ultimately crushed on Ahern Rentals, Inc.’s property when a forklift that was improperly placed on uneven ground collapsed as decedent laid under the raised forklift as he performed tire maintenance.

Plaintiffs’ suit would normally be barred by the Privette line of decisions which arise out of the foundational principle that an independent contractor’s hirer presumptively delegates to the contractor its tort law duty to provide a safe workplace for the contractor’s employees. (Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689 (Privette).) The Privette rule is subject to a number of exceptions including the “peculiar risk” exception, the “nondelegable duty” exception and the “affirmative contribution” exception. (See Privette, supra.) Here, Plaintiffs’ claimed that their suit against Ahern arose out of the “affirmative contribution” exception to Privette as defined by Hooker v. Department of Transportation (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198, 202 (Hooker). Hooker allows suits otherwise barred by Privette to go forward if the hirer of the independent contractor “exercised control over safety conditions at the worksite in a way that affirmatively contributed to the employee’s injuries.”

Reprinted courtesy of Haight Brown & Bonesteel attorneys Courtney Arbucci, Peter A. Dubrawski and Austin F. Smith
Ms. Arbucci may be contacted at carbucci@hbblaw.com
Mr. Dubrawski may be contacted at pdubrawski@hbblaw.com
Mr. Smith may be contacted at asmith@hbblaw.com



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