Thursday, July 10, 2008

Construction liability – harsh but it is the law

As far as the construction industry is concerned, the builders or laborers’ safety must be of paramount consideration. Of course, I believe it’s second only to the concern that is the worthiness of the structure they’re building, but equally important nonetheless.

Hence, we can see signage like “Safety First”, “Hard Hat Area” and the likes, in the construction areas. Failure to place them on site would entail negligence on the part of the owner of the construction company. The owner may face not only civil liability but criminal liability as well.

Take the case of what happened in Brooklyn just recently. In a news article published by the Daily News, a building contractor was reported to be facing possible murder charges for a construction accident that killed a worker and injured another when a foundation collapsed. He said he tried to warn his employees because it was raining.

Government authorities fined the contractor in the meanwhile as the investigation is still going on.

I surmised the lesson here is quite simple: when something happened, the law looks whose negligence it is that produced the accident. Once it is determined, the law attaches some form of liability to the person at fault to compensate the unfortunate victim of accident. And just like in the news, it may not have been of the contractor’s direct fault that produced the accident and death of the worker – but that is the law.

Recent decisions of the Court even expanded the contractor’s duty of ensuring the safety of construction premises. The duty now involves both the workers and visitors, i.e. workplace safety in the inside and security from the outside that not everyone gets in, lest that person meets an accident and make the contractor liable for him.

Construction liability, in effect, is now covered by the general law on negligence instead of premise liability, which is more limited in scope. The contractor has extraordinary burden that he can be liable, by virtue of recent jurisprudence, even to a trespasser as long as the accident took place in his premises – so the law says.

Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but it is the law.