Mavrikidis v. Petullo

153 N.J. 117, 707 A.2d 977 (1998)



Under the first exception to the general rule of nonliability of principals/contractees for the negligence of their independent contractors, the reservation of control "of the manner and means" of the contracted work by the principal permits the imposition of vicarious liability. In such a case, the employer is responsible for the negligence of the independent contractor even though the particular control exercised, and its manner of exercise, had no causal relationship with the hazard that led to the injury, just as in the case of a simple employer-employee situation. The reservation of control over the equipment to be used, the manner or method of doing the work, or direction of the employees of the independent contractor may permit vicarious liability. However, supervisory acts performed by the contractee will not give rise to vicarious liability under that exception.


The court affirmed the appellate court's judgment and remand for a reallocation trial to determine the liability attributable to laborers, defendants in the underlying action, and appellant asphalt company for injuries sustained by appellee victim when laborers' truck struck her while transporting asphalt loaded by appellant asphalt company to appellant gas station's job site. The court held that the laborers were independent contractors of appellant gas station, and the tort of negligently hiring an incompetent, unfit, or dangerous employee did not extend to a contractee's selection of an independent contractor. 


Can a contractee be vicariously liable for the negligence of its independent contractor?




Ordinarily, an employer that hires an independent contractor is not liable for the negligent acts of the contractor. There are three exceptions to the general rule of nonliability; however, as delineated by the Supreme Court: (a) where the principal retains control of the manner and means of the work; (b) where the principal engages an incompetent contractor; or (c) where the activity contracted for constitutes a nuisance per se. Therefore, the court affirmed the appellate court's judgment, because it was not vicariously liable for appellee victim's injuries, and remanded the matter for determination of the appropriate degree of responsibility attributable to appellant asphalt company and laborers, defendants below, in light of such holding.

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