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Superior Court Grants Summary Judgment in Personal Injury Action against City

July 31, 2012

William T. DelHagen, Paul R. Flaherty and Adrian J. Barrio successfully represented the City of Moreno Valley and one of its employees, Mosallam Almasri, in a personal injury action brought by the employee of independent contractor Riverside Construction Company.

The city hired Riverside to perform storm drain improvements and street lane widening. The plaintiff, the superintendent of construction for Riverside, suffered debilitating injuries when he was struck by a truck operated by Cesar Rosales, an employee of the defendant and cross-complainant Pipeline Carriers, Inc. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was standing in the middle of the street, engaged in the task of performing pre-construction measurements. Mr. Almasri was on the scene at the time of the accident, but he did not direct the plaintiff’s activities in any way and was essentially an onlooker.

The plaintiff argued that the city and Mr. Almasri failed to ensure that Riverside and its employees, including the plaintiff, complied with applicable Cal-OSHA regulations pertaining to traffic control at or near the job site.

The Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino granted the city and Mr. Almasri’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the basis of the “Privette” doctrine and the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Seabright v. US Airways, Inc., 52 Cal.4th 590 (2011). The court found that, under Seabright, neither the city nor Mr. Almasri owed the plaintiff a duty of care to ensure workplace safety. The court noted that, by hiring an independent contractor, the city implicitly delegated to the contractor any tort law duty it owed to the contractor’s employee, the plaintiff, to ensure workplace safety. That implicit delegation included any tort law duty the city owed to the plaintiff to comply with applicable statutory or regulatory safety requirements.

In addition, the court found that the city did not “affirmatively contribute” to the plaintiff’s injuries and, further, that Mr. Almasri was immune from personal liability by virtue of his status as a public employee.