Owner of Property Held Liable to Subcontractor's Employees for Injury at the Premises

Owner of Property Held Liable to Subcontractor’s Employees for Injury at the Premises


In Sandoval v. Qualcomm, Inc., a California appellate court held that an owner could be held liable to a subcontractor’s employee for injuries arising out of a dangerous condition.  In Sandoval, the plaintiff was severely burned in an “arc flash” from a live circuit breaker while working at a plant owned by Qualcomm, Inc.  Plaintiff’s employer did not have worker’s compensation coverage.  Plaintiff sued his employer, the general contractor and Qualcomm for his injuries.  The jury returned a verdict against the contractor, and Qualcomm apportioning 46 percent to Qualcomm, 45 percent to the contractor and 9 percent to the plaintiff.  Qualcomm filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the court denied.  The court granted Qualcomm’s motion for a new trial as to the apportionment of the damages.  Qualcomm appealed arguing that the trial court errored in refusing to instruct the jury that the jury was required to find that Qualcomm “affirmatively contributed” to Plaintiff’s injury to find liability.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision finding that it would be misleading to the jury to instruct it to find that Qualcomm’s liability is dependent upon a finding of “affirmative contribution.”  Instead, the appellate court found that a Qualcomm employee advised the contractor which switch gears had not been de-energized prior to the inspection.  Neither the contractor nor Qualcomm provided this information to Plaintiff.  As a result, the appellate court held that Qualcomm could be held liable to the plaintiff for plaintiff’s injuries.


Shannon B. Jones, Partner sbj@sbj-law.com