Indiana Supreme Court Rules on Construction Jobsite Safety Case

By: Sean T. Devenney

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled today in the Hunt Construction Group v. Garrett case that DSV has been tracking for a long while, as noted here.  This is an important safety case because the trial court and Court of Appeals held that Hunt (who was the Construction Manager on the Lucas Oil Stadium Project) could be held liable for injuries to a subcontractor’s employee (Garrett) because of: (1) various provisions in the CM contract with the Owner and (2) the safety related activities Hunt undertook on the Project.  Hunt argued that it could not be held liable because other provisions in its CM contract explicitly provided that Hunt was not responsible for the safety programs to be implemented by the trade contractors.

Today the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court and Court of Appeals and held that based on Hunt’s contract with the Owner and the underlying facts of the case, that Hunt did not owe a duty of care to the injured employee’s subcontractor.  Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that Hunt was entitled to summary judgment and the case (as to Hunt) could not go to the jury for consideration.  Given the importance of the decision to the construction industry, we will be doing a follow up blog post detailing the implications of the decision, including what this may mean for safety-related contractual provisions in your standard contract forms.  For a copy of the decision click here.