In a recent Tennessee construction accident, an appellate decision was announced after a construction worker fell from scaffolding while working in a factory. The worker ran an extension cord over the warehouse floor so that he could reach an outlet in which to plug in a screw gun that he would use to put in sheetrock during renovation. The factory owner’s employee drove a forklift over the extension cord, which dislodged scaffolding. Summary judgment was granted in favor of the factory owner, finding there weren’t any factual disputes and no duty to warn.
The case arose when the plaintiff was employed by a subcontractor of a contractor hired to renovate an LLC’s warehouse. When he fell, the plaintiff was using a screw gun to install sheetrock on an inner wall. The screw gun was plugged into a 100-foot extension cord. He said the use of the extension cord was needed because the only source of electricity was in another place in the warehouse. As the sheetrock was being installed the defendant’s employee had moved product through the door with a forklift.
The plaintiff and his brother had hung sheetrock in that same spot for three days before the accident. On the accident date, the factory employee drove a forklift in reverse through the door and didn’t see the extension cord or the plaintiff. The cord got tangled up in the forklift and triggered the plaintiff’s fall 10 feet down to the concrete floor.
The plaintiff’s suit claimed that the defendant factory owed a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and hadn’t met that duty. The lawsuit claimed the factory owner hadn’t properly maintained the premises, failed to properly inspect the premises for dangerous conditions, and failed to put in warning signs at the right locations to warn of the dangerous condition of the premises.
The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing it had no duty to warn. The court granted the motion stating that the undisputed facts revealed that the plaintiff or his coworker had created the dangerous condition. Therefore the defendant didn’t have a duty to warn about the dangerous condition created by the plaintiff or coworker.
The plaintiff appealed. The appellate court explained that duty is an obligation owed by the defendant to a plaintiff to abide by a reasonable person standard of care so as to guard against unreasonable risk of harm. In a premises liability lawsuit, someone in control of real property must use reasonable care under the circumstances to stop injury people lawfully on the premises. The employee of an independent contractor has the status of an invitee while doing work on the property of the owner. The premises owner must use reasonable care to make sure the employee has a reasonably safe place to work.
The appellate court explained that in this case, there was a factual dispute about whether the plaintiff was in control of the environment in which they were working. The plaintiff or his brother had put the extension cord on the floor, but didn’t have control over the factory owner’s equipment or workers that drove the forklift over the cord.
The court explained that those seeking to win on a premises liability claim need to establish elements of the negligence claim and must show that (1) the condition was created by the owner, agent or operator or (2) if the condition was created by somebody other than the owner, there was actual or constructive notice to the owner. In this case, the plaintiff disputed whether the forklift driver acted with reasonable care and whether he was following the appropriate protocol at the time of the accident. The appellate court explained this was relevant to the issue of whether the factory owner had used reasonable care. The summary judgment was reversed and the case was sent back down.
Personal injury attorney Eric Beasley can help you evaluate the likelihood of success with your claim. If you have recently been injured and are uncertain about your rights, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.
Related Blog Posts:
Sixth Circuit Upholds Claim for Black Lung Benefits, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, May 30, 2018.
Tennessee Court Finds Homeowner Not Responsible for Worker’s Fall, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 20, 2018.
Tennessee Court Holds That Plaintiff Can Add Comparative Fault Defendants To Case, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, February 9, 2018.