Gonzalez v. Mathis

Facts: A property owner hires a contractor to clean windows in elevated areas. The property owner does not direct the work the contractor will perform and the contractor oversees performance of the work by their staff. Before starting, the contractor notices multiple hazards such as loose debris, no tie off points to attach a safety harness and no guardrail or safety wall on the premises and makes the property owner aware. The contractor later falls and sustains serious injuries caused by the known hazards.

Claim: The contractor seeks money losses incurred due to their injuries from the property owner, claiming the property owner is liable for their injuries since they resulted from known hazards on the premises.

Counterclaim: The property owner claims they are not liable for the injuries sustained by the contractor since the owner did not retain control over the work.

Holding: The California Supreme Court holds the property owner is not liable for money losses resulting from injuries suffered by the contractor while on the owner’s property since there is no evidence any control over the contractor’s work was retained by the property owner. [Gonzalez v. Mathis (2021) 12 C5th 29)

Editor’s note — A property owner may not be held liable for a contractors’ injuries sustained while on the job unless there is proof the owner delegated how the work was to be done and retained control over the contractor’s assignment. Then and only then would the owner need to ensure the workplace was safe and hazard free.

Read Gonzalez v. Mathis in full here.

Related Article:

Is a homeowner liable for an injury suffered by an employee of an uninsured contractor?