Virden v. Betts & Beer Constr. Co.

656 N.W.2d 805 (Iowa 2003)



It is generally held that a building or construction contractor is liable for injuries to, or the death of, third persons occurring after the completion of his work and its acceptance by the contractee, where the work is reasonably certain to endanger third persons if negligently prepared or constructed. The law imposes upon every person who undertakes the performance of an act which, if not done carefully will be dangerous to other persons or the property of other persons the duty to exercise his senses and intelligence to avoid injury, and any such person may be held accountable at law for an injury to person or to property which is directly attributable to a breach of such duty.


Plaintiff employee was bolting an angle iron into place when he fell from the top of the 10-foot ladder on which he was standing. He sustained severe injuries and sued defendant contractors who earlier in the year had installed the ceiling. The district court granted summary judgment, but the appellate court reversed. The state supreme court vacated the appellate court's decision and reinstated the district court's grant of summary judgment.



Were defendant contractors liable for the injuries sustained by plaintiff employee?




The instrumentality causing plaintiff's injury was a tipping or collapsing ladder, not a defective angle iron. The duty to construct a solid ceiling was not to protect repairmen from perching on tall ladders but to prevent collapsing parts of the ceiling from falling on persons below. Because plaintiff's fall was not a reasonably foreseeable or probable consequence of defendants' negligence, the district court correctly granted judgment in their favor.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.