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Indiana Court of Appeals Confirms Duties of Premise Owners to Contractors Hired to Work on their Properties

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.

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