On September 28, 2016, a unanimous panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals
ruled in favor of George & Farinas clients Larry and Loa Myers. At
issue was what duties, if any, premise owners owe to contractors injured
on their property.
Larry was an electrician exposed to asbestos at various jobsites in Northern
Indiana. After Larry was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal cancer
caused by asbestos, the Myers filed a lawsuit alleging certain premises
owners and manufacturers of asbestos products were responsible for Larry’s
asbestos exposures. The Myers filed claims against the premises owners
stating that they owed a duty to Larry because; (1) their employees exposed
Larry to asbestos, (2) other independent contractors hired by the property
owners exposed Larry to asbestos, and (3) their properties presented a
dangerous condition due to the asbestos already present in the facilities
to which Larry was exposed.
The Court of Appeals found all three arguments were valid under Indiana
law. It held Premise Owners are responsible for the negligence of their
employees. It also ruled a Premise Owner can be liable for a contractor’s
negligence, when that contractor’s work is likely to cause injury
unless due precautions are taken. Finally, the Court of Appeals found
that because Larry was not hired to address the companies’ asbestos
issues, the Myers had asserted a valid claim for the dangerous conditions
on their premises.
The premises owners who were part of the Appeal now have the right to ask
the Indiana Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals’ opinion.
Should the Supreme Court decline to do so, the Court of Appeals Order
will be binding law in Indiana and will serve to protect contractors working
on Indiana jobsites where they are exposed to asbestos.