Partner Craig Compoli and Of Counsel Ed Ryan recently secured a directed verdict at the close of a plaintiff’s case, following three weeks of trial in Middlesex County. The plaintiff fell thirty feet through a translucent skylight while working on a roof, suffered spinal injuries, and is currently a paraplegic. The plaintiff filed suit in 2017 against a real estate conglomerate, the property owner, and its property management company, claiming the skylights contained a latent defect. The plaintiff alleged that the property owners were negligent by breaching their duty of care, failing to provide a safe workplace, and failing to comply with certain OSHA regulations. The plaintiff also alleged that the property manager breached its duty to the plaintiff while serving as a “prime contractor” and was thus the “controlling employer” for the work under OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy.
At the close of the plaintiff’s case and following extensive testimony of fact and expert witnesses, OS moved for involuntary dismissal. The firm argued that the evidence confirmed the property owner did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because it did not control the methods and means of the contractor’s work. In addition, the plaintiff’s employer—with whom the property owner had a long-term business relationship—was not an incompetent contractor. Further, the plaintiff’s fall resulted from the very hazard created by performing the contracted work. See Muhammad v. New Jersey Transit, 176 N.J. 185 (2003); Tarabokia v. Structure Tone, 429 N.J. Super. 103 (App. Div. 2012).
As to the property manager, OS argued that the plaintiff was not working on a multi-employer site at the time of the fall, as required for liability to apply, and that the plaintiff’s employer was not a “prime” contractor as defined by OSHA. See 29 CFR 1926.16(b). Further, the property management agreement did not contain the “explicit” contractual language required under the Multi-Employer Citation Policy to afford the property management company the ability to correct safety violations or to force contractors at the site to do so. See CPL 02-00-124.
On August 10, 2022, following the submission of briefs and lengthy oral argument, the Honorable Alberto Rivas, J.S.C. granted a directed verdict, dismissing defendants with prejudice.
Craig Compoli is designated by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Certified Civil Trial Attorney, a distinction in trial advocacy bestowed on only 2-3% of all attorneys practicing in the State of New Jersey. His practice routinely encompasses a wide range of legal disputes focusing on catastrophic loss matters, and industrial accidents.
Ed Ryan is an experienced trial attorney focusing his practice on civil litigation defense and complex litigation, including in the areas of premises liability, construction site injuries, wrongful death claims, and trucking and transportation.
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Attachment: Download Order Granting Directed Verdict
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