McGlashan v QBE Insurance (Australia) Ltd (No 2) [2014] NSWSC 486 (1 May 2014)

Main issue: Duty of care to subcontractors

Background:

The plaintiff was subcontracted to perform roof work for Lidoran Roofing Pty Ltd (Lidoran) after responding to an advertisement for experienced roofers with their ”own transport, insurances and all tools, a clean tidy appearance and good working history".

After fixing a leaky roof, the subcontractor says the unsecured ladder he was descending blew over in the wind and he was forced to jump off.  He fell around four metres, suffering severe injuries to each of his heels and now suffers from post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

The subcontractor brought a claim for damages against Lidoran arguing that while he was competent, the activity had “not been placed in his hands” because Lidoran had undertaken to provide a second man to assist in the task who did not show up; therefore making the job unsafe.

The subcontractor further argued that a decision by him not to perform a particular repair might have commercial ramifications if Lidoran took that as a sign of "unreliability".

Decision:

The Court held that the subcontractor was not “vulnerable in the legal sense” and that Lidoran put the entire task into the subcontractor’s hands as a competent independent contractor and that they were entitled to do so, notwithstanding the industry standard that long ladder work is to be performed by two people.