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Liability of a Premises Owner

The premises owner is often times liable for construction accidents and injuries that happen in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. Our Birmingham, Alabama construction accident attorneys at Cross & Smith have a significant amount of experience in construction accident cases involving liability of premises owners.

Generally speaking, under Alabama law, a premises owner has a duty to use reasonable care and diligence to keep the premises in a safe condition for contractors (invitees), or if his premises are in a dangerous condition, to provide a sufficient warning of the dangerous condition assuming the dangerous condition is not open and obvious.

An example of this duty owed by premises owners is found in Banks v. Bayou Bend, II, Ltd., 552 So. 2d 1070 (Ala. 1989). In that case, there was evidence that the premises owner was aware that one of the main beams supporting the stairs on which the contractor was hired to work was rotten and needed to be replaced. There was also evidence that the premises owner failed to warn the contractor of the rotten beam (dangerous condition). Therefore, the Alabama Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence of premises owner liability for the case to be submitted to the jury.

A premises owner may also have an affirmative duty to provide the contractor with a safe place to work if the premises owner reserves the right to control the manner and method of the contractor’s work. The premises owner must do more than merely guarantee compliance with the contract to trigger a duty to provide a safe work place. For instance, it is permissible for the premises owner to inspect the work of the contractor to determine whether the work is completed according to the plans and specifications of the contract. On the other hand, if the premises owner takes affirmative steps to control the contractor’s work, thereby crossing the line from guaranteeing compliance with the contract, the premises owner must provide the contractor with a safe work place.

Our Birmingham, Alabama construction accident lawyers know that the contract between the parties is often important evidence of reserved right of control. In Mead v. Champion Intern. Corp., 667 So. 2d 36 (Ala. 1995), the evidence showed that the premises owner, through its rules and regulations, controlled the manner in which the contractor unloaded logs on the premises, and employees of the premises owner had the right to refuse to admit any log truck on the premises that did not fully comply with these rules and regulations. Accordingly, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to establish that the premises owner reserved the right to control the work of the contractor thereby requiring the premises owner to provide a safe work place.

In addition to reviewing the contract at issue, the courts also often consider the following factors in determining if the premises owner has reserved the right to control the work of the contractor: (1) whether the type of work being performed is usually done by a specialist without supervision; (2) the skill needed for the work; (3) whether the premises owner or the contractor supplied the tools and equipment needed for the work; (4) whether the contractor was paid by the hour or by the job; and (5) whether the work performed is part of the premises owner’s regular business.

If you, or someone close to you, have been injured in a construction accident, we encourage you to contact the skilled Birmingham, Alabama construction accident attorneys at Cross & Smith. We have handled several construction accident cases involving premises owner liability in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. If you would like to consult with us, please contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free consultaion.

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