Yeatts v. Polygon Northwest Company

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 12-31-2014
  • Case #: A150199
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Armstrong, P.J. for the Court; before Nakamoto, J., &Egan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

For a general contractor to be liable for the negligence of a subcontractor under Oregon's Employer Liability law, they must be engaged in a "common enterprise".

Plaintiff appealed general judgement in favor of defendant. Plaintiff, an employee of a subcontractor for defendant, was injured when he fell through guardrails while working for defendant. Plaintiff filed an action against defendant, on the theory that defendant was liable under Oregon’s Employer Liability Law (ELL) ORS 654.305, and 654.336, as plaintiff’s indirect employer. The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgement, which argued that they were not liable under ELL because the subcontractor controlled the guardrails, and defendant relied on their subcontractor’s knowledge and expertise in constructing guardrails and implementing safety measures. In plaintiff’s response to the motion, they presented evidence that created issues of material fact as to the applicability of ELL, but did not address defendant’s arguments regarding common-law negligence. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that there was a genuine issue of material fact. The Court of Appeals held that the test for ELL liability is the “common enterprise test”, which is determined by the degree of control a defendant has over the work. The Court reasoned that defendant had presented sufficient evidence in their motion that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether they were in a common enterprise with the subcontractor. Affirmed.

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