When Is A Contractor Liable For Something A Subcontractor Does?
As a contractor, you have enough to worry about, in order to get the project done, done correctly, and to stay out of legal trouble. The last thing you need is to worry about being held responsible for something a hired subcontractor does. But is a contractor responsible for the errors, omissions or mistakes, of the independent contractors or subcontractors that it hires?
Contractors are Usually Not Liable
As a general rule, the answer is no. General contractors are not liable, and cannot be held responsible for things that a subcontractor does or may fail to do. If you hire a subcontractor to install flooring, and the installation is faulty or not workmanlike, it is the subcontractor, and not the general contractor, which can be held liable.
The more you, as the contractor, exercise control and dominion over the subcontractor, the more you can be held responsible. In other words, just labeling a company as a sub or independent contractor will not shield a contractor from liability. A subcontractor must truly be independent from control, and the contractor cannot influence the subcontractor.
Other Exceptions Where the Contractor May be Held Liable
Level of control isn’t the only variable in measuring liability for a subcontractor’s actions. There are some specific exceptions, where a contractor can be held liable for things a subcontractor does. One area is where there is a duty that is non-delegable—that is, the law doesn’t let you, as a contractor, say “that’s someone else’s job.”
Generally non-delegable duties are those duties that are required under the terms of permit, or where a law makes something your duty. Often, the language of a contract can make a duty non-delegable. If you, the contractor, agree to specifically undertake a task, you cannot then delegate it to another, and then escape liability when things go wrong.
From an owner’s standpoint, if you want to ensure a contractor is liable for whatever a sub contractor does, you may want to add provisions stating that the obligations in the contract are non-delegable.
Inherently Dangerous Activities
Additionally, inherently dangerous activities can be non-delegable. This is generally any activity which, by the nature of the work, presents a harm or danger to others. This is work where injury will probably occur, if the work is not performed safely and properly.
You could not, for example, hire a contractor to take care of blasting work, and then blame an injury on the contractor if things go awry. The same may apply for electricity work, dumping, operating heavy machinery, or pile driving.
Additionally, you as the contractor still have liability for something a subcontractor does, if the subcontractors error is a result of negligent hiring, or negligent selection of the contractor.
Our Fort Lauderdale construction law attorneys at Sweeney Law P.A. at 954 440-3993 can help with your construction law related legal issues.