Normally, an employer cannot be held liable for the acts of an independent contractor. The idea here is that a business should not be sued for the misbehavior of a person it does not control (i.e., employ).
However, there are exceptions to the independent contractor rule, starting with the exception of respondeat superior.
Under this theory, the language in the contract governing the relationship isn’t what’s important, rather, it’s how much the employer controls and directs the employee.
For example, a trucking company hires a long-haul trucker on an independent contractor basis. Generally, the trucking company cannot be held liable for the contractor’s misdeeds.
However, if the trucking company forces the contractor to paint the company logo onto his semi and dictates with great specificity the trucker’s daily responsibility and hours, a judge may consider the trucker an employee despite the contract wording.
There are other exceptions to the independent contractor non-liability rule:
- Negligent hiring: If a trucking company hires an independent contractor with a history of drunk driving, and the contractor hurts someone drinking and driving, the employer could be liable.
- Non-delegable duty: Courts have ruled that some jobs are of such public important that they cannot simply be delegated to outside parties.
- Inherently dangerous work: Some work is so dangerous and inherently risky that courts will not allow employers to delegate it to a third party. Demolition would likely be an example of this exception.
Employers have protections
Although employers don’t enjoy blanket immunity from liability, the law recognizes the value they provide to society and facilitates the smooth flow of business unencumbered by frivolous lawsuits.
If you’re facing a lawsuit, remember, employers have rights. An experienced defense attorney can ensure your rights and interests are acknowledged. They can identify the critical evidence and launch a thorough investigation to uncover the truth.
Staten Island residents shouldn’t hesitate to reach out. If cost is a concern, many lawyers offer a free initial consultation at no out-of-pock cost to the client.