In Lawrence Raimo v. Robert Fischer, the Appellate Division recently discussed a contractor’s duty of care for individuals who may come onto their construction site. In this case, the Court explained that a contractor’s duty of care is governed by general negligence principals which require a contractor to exercise reasonable care to maintain the construction site in a safe condition for any persons the contractor may reasonably expect to come onto the site. This duty differs from the common law doctrine of premises liability under which a contractor’s liability for injured parties was previously governed. In the past, a contractor’s potential liability for individuals injured on their job site depended upon the injured parties classification as either a business invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Depending on the parties’ classification, the liability that a contractor could be subjected to was grossly different.
The Court’s ruling in Raimo v. Fischer adopted the general negligence principal in lieu of the common law doctrine of premises liability which provides that all parties should be treated in a similar fashion regardless of whether the person was a business invitee, licensee, or trespasser. This new standard requires a contractor to exercise reasonable care to maintain the site in a safe condition regardless of whether the person is a business invitee, licensee, and/or trespasser. By extending the general negligence principal to a trespasser, it is now possible that a contractor may be subject to greater liability for an individual who trespasses on the project site and is injured.
The effect of this change in the law is that contractors should be forewarned that all parties who enter on their job site will be treated the same by the Court, whether they be invited or uninvited. As such, it is advisable that a contractor take special care to render the job site safe and secure at the end of a work day so as to avoid potential liability from an uninvited trespasser. Moreover, it is suggested that the contractor require all subcontractors and/or vendors to be carefully advised of any potential dangers on the job site, such as a contractor would do for a business invitee who is visiting the project site.