eNotes: Liability – September 2022 – Maryland
September 01, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
MD CASE SUMMARY
Hancock v. Mayor of Baltimore
Maryland Court of Appeals
No. 57 September Term, 2021, 2022 Md. LEXIS 326
Decided: August 15, 2022
Maryland Court of Appeals holds that an employer who hires an independent contractor is not liable to an employee of that contractor for injuries caused by the contractor’s negligence in performing the work for which it was hired. The Court further holds that a subcontractor on a construction site owes a duty of reasonable care to provide for the protection and safety of the employees of other contractors or subcontractors only with respect to conditions that the contractor/subcontractor creates or over which it exercises control.
This case arises out of the death of Kyle Hancock, an employee of R.F. Warder, which occurred while he was working on an excavation site in Baltimore City, Maryland. Baltimore City hired Warder to perform excavation work at the Clifton pool in Baltimore, Maryland. Warder called an employee of its designated minority contractor in order to assist with the excavation. While performing the work, Warder employees determined that it would be necessary for the crew to enter the excavation, which at that point was at least 15 feet deep, in order to dig a better channel for water that was leaking from a pipe that was broken during the excavation process. The employee of the minority contractor said out loud, to no one in particular, that he had concerns about the safety of the dig. Subsequently, a portion of the excavation collapsed, resulting in the death of Hancock.
Hancock’s mother and the representatives of his father’s estate filed a survivorship and wrongful death action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City seeking damages arising out of Hancock’s death. Maryland’s workers’ compensation laws barred the Hancocks from bringing actions against Warder. Therefore, the Hancocks brought claims against Baltimore City and the employee of the minority contractor. The Hancocks claimed that Baltimore City was liable in negligence for failing to exercise reasonable care in selecting Warder to perform the excavation. The Hancocks further claimed that the employee of the minority contractor was liable for failing to warn Mr. Hancock of the dangerous condition of the excavation. The employee of the minority contractor and the City filed a Motion to dismiss the Complaint. The Circuit Court granted the Motion to dismiss and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Hancocks appealed to Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals. The Court of Appeals determined that the City owed no duty to employees of an independent contractor to employ reasonable care in the selection of that independent contractor. Therefore, the City could not be held liable to Hancock for its decision to select Warder to perform the excavation. The Court further held that the employee of the minority contractor owed no duty to warn Hancock of a hazard that the minority contractor did not create or control. Therefore, the Court affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ Complaint.
Questions about this case can be directed to Andrew White at (443) 641-0572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.