In a premises liability case, the California Court of Appeal recently reviewed whether a contractor that performed tile work for a property management company could be held liable for injuries suffered by an individual who slipped on the wet tiles. After slipping and falling, the plaintiff in this case brought a lawsuit against the property manager, which then filed a cross-complaint against the contractor. The trial court denied the contractor’s motion for summary judgment, but after review, the appellate court vacated the order and directed the lower court to issue a new order granting the motion for summary judgment based on the “accepted work” doctrine.
Connie Rogers was the plaintiff in a slip and fall case involving PMB, a Limited Liability Company and property manager, and Topline Supply, Inc. Topline had contracted with PMB to provide renovation services, including installing tiles on a handicapped access ramp. Topline was not named as a defendant, but PMB filed a cross-complaint for indemnity and added Topline. Then, Topline made a summary judgment motion based on the “accepted work” doctrine.
The trial court denied the summary judgment motion on the ground that the “accepted work” doctrine did not absolve a contractor from liability if they had been hired by a third party.
The court stated that the “accepted work” doctrine holds that once an owner that contracted for the construction of an improvement has accepted the work, the owner is solely liable to third parties who are injured by a defect or condition in the improvement. This rule is based on the notion that by accepting the work, the owner implicitly approves of its safety and is then responsible to third parties.
In this case, the defect was allegedly that the tiles were too slippery once they got wet. PMB was aware that the tiles were slippery when wet, and it attempted to improve the situation. The appellate court stated that the evidence showed Topline had been fully paid for the work, and final payment was to be made only after the work was inspected and found “acceptable.” That the tiles were slippery when wet was obvious to PMB before the plaintiff allegedly fell. The court held that Topline was therefore not liable for injuries suffered by third parties.
In short, the appellate court stated that the trial court erred in believing that the “accepted work” doctrine only applies to prevent actions by the injured party. In fact, this doctrine bars actions for indemnity by a joint tortfeasor. The appellate court stated that there cannot be a duty to indemnify if there is no liability to the injured party.
Next, the court stated the particularities of this case required asking whether PMB could represent in good faith that there was a triable issue of material fact. The court stated that PMB did not do so. Instead, PMB argued the tile at issue was chosen by Topline. There is no liability for a defective product, and furthermore, the court stated the tile was not shown to be defective. PMB knew the tile was slippery when wet.
The acceptance rule, the court stated, places responsibility on owners that accept work that poses a risk to the public. An owner, once it has accepted the work, has the sole power to correct known problems.
The court stated that the lower court should vacate the order denying Topline’s motion for summary judgment and enter a new order granting the motion.
At Sharifi Firm, our Southern California premises liability attorneys provide personalized, efficient representation to injured individuals pursuing claims for compensation. We offer a no-obligation, free consultation and can be reached by calling 1-866-422-7222.
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California Court of Appeal Finds Plaintiffs Failed to Show Unsafe Condition and Landlord Duty Regarding Water Heater Temperature Responsible for Burns, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, July 8, 2016
California Court of Appeals Rejects Sanctions Against Defendant in Personal Injury Lawsuit Because Second Summary Judgment Motion was not “Objectively Unreasonable”, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, June 26, 2016