Court of Appeals, Division One, upholds result of MHL attorneys David S. Cottnair and Tom Merrick who obtained dismissal on summary judgment of claims against client property for premises liability claim.

Client Property Owner Not Liable to Employee of Property Management Company

Division I of the Court of Appeals recently affirmed summary judgment dismissal obtained by Dave Cottnair and Tom Merrick. The client owned an apartment building that served to provide housing to low income residents. The client hired a property management company whose duties included overseeing the maintenance of the apartment building. Plaintiff was the facilities manager for the property management company. He slipped and fell on a puddle of water in the laundry room and alleged serious injuries.
Unable to sue his employer, plaintiff filed suit against the owner of the apartment building. The trial court and Court of Appeals agreed with MHL attorneys’ argument that there was no evidence in the record that the client knew or should have known that the sink was leaking, and the absence of such evidence established that plaintiff failed to meet his burden to show the existence of a material fact. The Court further rejected plaintiff’s argument that the property owner had a non-delegable duty to provide him with a safe workplace and to ensure that his employer complied with the Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act’s core rules. The Court determined the relationship was one of an independent contractor and the apartment owner did not maintain control over plaintiff or his employer in the manner necessary to find a property owner liable for injuries to employees of independent contractors. Finally, the Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that even if the property owner was not negligent, it was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of plaintiff’s employer. See Timothy Smith et al. v. Frye Building Limited Partnership, 2012 Wash. App. LEXIS 684 (March 19, 2012).
Click here to view the appellate court decision.