Dina Barron-Ramirez and her husband, Jaime Ramirez, contracted with AT&T to have a home security system installed in their residence.
Jamey Maddas, an electrician employed by Endeavor Telecom, an AT&T subcontractor, was dispatched to the Ramirez home to complete the installation.
During the installation work, as he was descending the stairs from the second to the first floor, when he fell and fractured his leg. After falling, Maddas saw the carpet runner had separated at a seam and detached from some of the stairs. He was not sure what caused his fall, however, he assumed it was due to the carpet runner.
As there was no dispute that Maddas was injured in the course and scope of his employment with Endeavor, he recovered worker’s compensation benefits for his medical expenses and wage loss.
Two years later, after settling his worker’s compensation case, he sued Homeowners claiming the accident was caused by a loose carpet runner, which made the staircase unreasonably dangerous. His form complaint alleges a cause of action for premises liability based on “loose carpet on the stairway.”
The homeowners moved for nonsuit at the end of Maddas’s case-in-chief on the grounds there was no substantial evidence to support a finding that they knew or should have known of a concealed preexisting hazardous condition on the stairs. The trial court granted the motion, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal in the unpublished case of Maddas v. Ramirez.
The Privette rule (Privette v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th 689) holds that as a general rule, the hirer of an independent contractor is not liable for on-the-job injuries to the independent contractor’s employees.
One of Privette’s underpinnings is the availability of workers’ compensation benefits to the injured employee. ” ‘[I]t would be unfair to impose liability on the hiring person when the liability of the contractor, the one primarily responsible for the worker’s on-the-job injuries, is limited to providing worker’s compensation coverage.’ “
Thus, “principally because of the availability of workers’ compensation,” a “useful way” to view these cases “is in terms of delegation.” (Id. at p. 671.) The hirer delegates to the independent contractor the duty to provide the contractor’s employees with a safe working environment. (Ibid.)
The evidence was undisputed that Homeowners were not carpet experts and had never installed carpet themselves. They hired a professional carpet installer to do so in 2004 as part of the carpet’s purchase price. After installation, the carpet covering each stair tread lay perfectly flat and did not move.