Property Owners Afforded Extra Protection from Claims of Independent Contractors
December 10, 2019
The Supreme Court of Texas has extended protections for property owners to claims for negligent hiring.
The case involved an oil field worker who died from injuries he sustained while working on a drill site. His estate sued Endeavor Energy Resources, property owner, claiming Endeavor negligently hired the injured person’s employer. Endeavor argued Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code barred the claims. Chapter 95 protects property owners from liability for injuries to independent contractors who modify improvements to real property assuming the property owner does not actually know about the dangerous condition which caused the injury.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Endeavor by extending it Chapter 95 protections. In doing so, the Court recognized negligent hiring involves two instances of negligence: the hiring itself and the negligent act. The Court concluded the negligent act alleged in this instance “arose from the use” of an improvement to real property and therefore Endeavor should be protected by the statute. Consequently, the Court reversed the court of appeals and broadened Chapter 95’s purview to exclude claims for negligent hiring against property owners.
This case is important for property owners as it limits the causes of action that can be asserted against them by parties injured on their property. Further, it shows the Court’s commitment to preserving the broad protection afforded by this statute.