Fillner Construction, Inc. was the general contractor on a gas station project. Fillner contracted with Lane Supply, which hired Perry Construction, Inc. to install a canopy at the project site. Perry hired Jeffrey Tverberg, an independent contractor, to construct the canopy. During construction, Tverberg fell into an uncovered hole dug close to the spot where the canopy was to be erected. He alleged personal physical and emotional injuries. He further alleged that the injuries affected his relationship with his wife. The trial court granted summary judgment for Fillner. Citing Michael v. Denbeste Transportation, Inc., 137 Cal.App.4th 1082 (2006), the trial court found that Fillner owed no duty of care to the Tverbergs because it did not affirmatively contribute to the injuries sustained.
The Court of Appeals reversed. The court recognized that, under Privette v. Superior Court, 5 Cal. 4th 689 (1993), the hirer of a contractor owes no duty of care to the contractor’s injured employee because the employee has an alternative remedy through the workers’ compensation system. Workers’ compensation, however, only applies to an employee; it does not extend to an independent contractor such as Tverberg. Thus, the court found that the Privette doctrine did not apply in the Tverbergs’ case. The court went further to criticize the Michael decision, stating that it failed to analyze the public policy reasons behind the Privette decision. After conducting its own public policy analysis, the court found that, as an independent contractor, Tverberg should not be precluded from seeking recovery from Fillner.
Tverberg v. Fillner Const., Inc., 168 Cal.App.4th 1278, 86 Cal.Rptr.3d 265 (2008)