The general rule in Washington is that a principal is not liable for injuries caused by an independent contractor whose services are engaged by the principal. Two exceptions to this general rule are: (1) carrying on an abnormally dangerous activity and (2) engaging in an activity that is inherently dangerous or poses a peculiar risk of physical harm. The exceptions for activities that pose a peculiar risk or are inherently dangerous are functionally identical.
An accused man was injured in the course of being apprehended by a subcontractor of an independent contractor hired by respondent bail bonder. Petitioner, personal representative of the estate of the accused, sued respondent for vicarious liability. The trial court granted summary judgment for respondent. The appellate court affirmed, but held that, because the accused man was not an innocent third party, the "inherently dangerous activity" exception to the rule that a principal was not liable for the acts of an independent contractor did not apply. On further appeal, the state supreme court reversed the appellate court’s decision.
Was respondent vicariously liable for injuries caused by the independent contractor whose services were engaged by respondent?
Plaintiff personal representative could proceed against respondent bail bonder because apprehension of the accused, although not an abnormally dangerous activity, was an activity that posed a peculiar risk of harm for which respondent could be vicariously liable.