Court: PPL exonerated from paying $2.5 million to pole painter

The Pennsylvania Superior Court exonerated PPL from having to pay a $2.5 million verdict to an injured workers that was painting a utility pole and fell tot he ground, suffering significant lower extremity and back injuries.   The injured worker was not an employee of PPL, but of a painting contractor.  In an earlier trial, a Jury found PPL 51% liable for damages, and the injured employee 49% liable.

The main issue int his case was ‘retention of control’ and whether PPL retained control over safety issues and matters at the work site.  Retention of control issue is based on a century old decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in that was clarified  Beil v. Telesis Constr. Inc., 11 A.3d  456 (Pa., 2011).

This foundational law is based upon the long-standing notion that one is not vicariously liable for the negligence of an independent contractor, because engaging an independent contractor “implies that the contractor is independent in the manner of doing the work contracted for. How can the other party control the contractor who is engaged to do the work, and who presumably knows more about doing it than the man who by contract authorized him to do it? Responsibility goes with authority.”

The Court clarified the rule in Biel.

The primary question in many premises cases, as is the issue before us, is whether the property owner hirer of the independent contractor retained sufficient control of the work to be legally responsible for the harm to the plaintiff  . . . Such a general right is usually reserved to employers, but it does not mean that the contractor is controlled as to his methods of
work, or as to operative detail. There must be such a retention of a right of supervision that the contractor is not entirely free to do the work in his own way.

The Superior Court found that ashen considering all the facts and factors into retention of control, that PPL did not maintain sufficient control over the painting contractors as to bring about liability upon them.