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ZK Result – Attorney Aaron Weiss Obtains Dismissal of Residential Homeowners for Contractor’s Injury during Work on their Roof

(Crawford County, PA) (December 2019). In December of 2019 Zimmer Kunz attorney Aaron Weiss successfully argued Preliminary Objections in favor of homeowners arising out of a contractor’s injury before President Judge Vardaro of Crawford County.

Plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the homeowners hired an independent contractor to install a metal roof on their house. This contractor then hired Plaintiff and other individuals to assist. During this work, Plaintiff slid off the roof and fell. The only facts asserted against the homeowners were that they owned this property and hired the general contractor. Accordingly, Plaintiff alleged the homeowners violated three duties: (1) to hire a safe, competent, and experienced contractor; (2) to investigate and vet all employees; and (3) to use due care in selection of the roofing contractor.

After briefing and oral arguments, Judge Vardaro authored an Opinion and Order in which he held the homeowners were not liable to Plaintiff, as a matter of law. Judge Vardaro began his analysis by citing the general rule in Pennsylvania that a landowner who engages an independent contractor is not responsible for the acts or omissions of such independent contractor. There are two general exceptions to this rule: (1) where a property owner retains control of the means and methods of the work, or (2) where there is a peculiar risk. However, neither of these exceptions were present in this case nor pled in the Complaint.

Plaintiff further argued that his negligent hiring claim was alternatively supported by the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 411. However, the Court held this Section does not apply, as a matter of law, because it is only meant to apply to third parties not involved in the work being performed, as explained in Mentzer v. Ognibene, 597 A.2d 604 (Pa. Super. 1991).

Thus, the homeowners were dismissed from the case. This Memorandum Opinion can be found at Beck v. Smith, No. AD 2019-222 (C.P. Crawford, Dec. 18, 2019), and is available to view at the link below: