Pennsylvania Supreme Court Grants Appeal in Nertavich v. PPL Elec Utilities
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has just granted allowance of appeal in Nertavich v. PPL Elec Utilities a case which involved the reversal of a $2.5 Million verdict on the basis that the property owner did not retain sufficient control over the work site. Beil v. Telesis Const. Inc., 608 Pa. 273, 11 A.3d 456, 462 (Pa. 2011). Both of these cases involve injuries to workers who did not utilize proper fall protection.
In Beil, workers were required to use ladders to access the roof because the property owner did not permit the workers to use interior elevators. In Nertavich, the worker was using a ladder supplied by the property owner because his employer did not have a suitable ladder. The trial court also went to great lengths to show how the contract between the owner and the sub-contractor provided details on how the paint was to be applied and included provisions mandating safety procedures be followed.
The decision from the Supreme Court in Nertavich could have a significant impact on construction litigation claims. If reversed, it will serve as the blueprint for claims against property owners. Whether the case provides a narrow or broad exception against the principle that a property owner generally owes no duty to an independent contractor to tell them how to safely do their work will depend on the language of the opinion.
The Supreme Court, though, could have granted allowance of appeal to affirm the decision of the Superior Court. Such an action would be to send a message to trial judges to grant more motions for summary judgment in these kind of cases. It may also be an attempt to solidify this doctrine before a possible shift to the left in the upcoming elections.