Richard Oetting v. Hageman Roofing, et. al. – Personal Injury and Workers Compensation
Docket No. A-0505-21
Decided December 1, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided plaintiff’s appeal from an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendants.
One of the defendants, Riverview Realty owns a building that it leases to codefendant, Schiff Foods Products Co., Inc. in 2016, Riverview and Schiff hired codefendant Hageman Roofing to replace the roof before they installed codefendant Green Power’s solar panels. Schiff had hired Hageman directly, but Green Power was listed as the general contractor in the contract. Multiple witnesses, including those from Hageman, testified that this was a typographical error.
The roof contained forty skylights which protruded significantly from the surface of the roof. They were also unguarded. In September 2016, plaintiff, employed as a roofer by Hageman, was tasked with removing portions of the old roof. As he was ripping and tearing pieces of the old roofing material, the roof gave way, the plaintiff lost his balance, and onto a skylight. The skylight cracked and plaintiff fell through roughly fifteen feet. He was seriously injured as a result.
Plaintiff sued on a negligence theory. He contended that Schiff and Riverview were responsible for his injuries, as the skylights were a hazardous condition of the property, and he was their business invitee. Plaintiff also asserted a claim against Green Power, arguing that the solar company served as the general contractor for the job and was therefore liable.
The defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment arguing that they owed no duty of care to plaintiff. Plaintiff cross-filed his own motion for summary judgment on the issue in opposition. The trial judge eventually granted the defendants’ motion and denied the plaintiff’s motion after hearing oral argument. The court believed the skylights were not dangerous in and of themselves, and only became hazardous when workers were present on the roof. Thus, the accident would not have happened if plaintiff had not lost his balance. Additionally, the court noted that Riverview and Schiff were entitled to rely on the skill of Hageman in performing the contracted roofing work and had nothing to do with the way Hageman went about its business to replace the roof. Therefore, they owed no duty. The court also found that Green Power owed no duty because it was a separately engaged independent contractor, which did not control the means, manner, and method of Hageman’s work. Plaintiff appealed.
Ultimately, the Appellate Court determined that the facts do not offer support for the contention that Riverview, Schiff, or Green Power owed plaintiff a duty, and summary judgment was appropriate. The court stated that neither of the three codefendants had any control or supervision over Hageman’s roofing work. Under the circumstances, defendants were not liable for the negligence of their independent contractors. The decision was affirmed.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to personal injury and workers compensation matters. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
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