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Odd Job Injuries: When Are Homeowners Liable?

At Torgenson Law, our Phoenix personal injury lawyers truly believe there are no accidents. Whether you suffer personal injuries on the road, at work, or on someone else’s property, it is very likely that someone is at fault. With that said, there are numerous claims that are never pursued because the injury victim is led to believe that “accidents happen.”

One potential claim that is often overlooked involves an individual who suffers injuries while performing work at another person’s home or business. Sometimes, homeowners and business owners will hire licensed contractors to perform various services such as landscaping, remodeling, or construction. Those licensed contractors should and/or will have workers’ compensation insurance that will apply as an exclusive remedy if their employees are injured on the job. However, oftentimes, homeowners and businesses will instead hire friends, neighbors, or other acquaintances to perform odd jobs such as trimming trees or painting the interior or exterior of their properties. In such cases, if the worker is injured, does the injured worker have a valid personal injury claim? In Arizona, the answer is YES.

For example, let’s say a homeowner hired her neighbor, an unlicensed contractor, to trim the palm trees in her front yard. The homeowner provides the trimming equipment, the ladder, and specifically tell her neighbor when and how to trim the palm branches. As it turns out, the ladder is not quite tall enough to reach the necessary branches. Nevertheless, the neighbor stands on the top rung of the ladder and stretches to reach the branches that the homeowner asked him to trim. In doing so, the neighbor loses his balance, falls, and suffers serious personal injuries.

Although this seems like a simple “accident,” Arizona courts permit direct liability of a landowner that retains control of the work or project. Under this theory of “retained control,” the landowner or project manager has certain responsibilities related to controlling the project premises, coordinating the work, and maintaining safe workplaces. In other words, if the landowner is exercising control over the project or dictating the manner and nature of the work, the landowner is responsible for ensuring the safety of the worker. If the landowner negligently performs those responsibilities, he or she might be liable to an injured worker.

So, using our example above, the homeowner would be liable for her neighbor’s injuries, as she did not provide appropriate equipment for the tree-trimming project. Her failure to meet her obligations ultimately caused and/or contributed to her neighbor’s fall. While the homeowner might argue defenses such as comparative fault or assumption of risk, there is no question that the neighbor would have a valid claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy.

At Torgenson Law, one of our most demanding challenges is persuading insurance adjusters, defense attorneys, and juries that accidents do not just happen. If you or a loved one is injured in what appears to be an “accident”, it can never hurt to call our Arizona Injury Lawyers to evaluate the validity of your potential claim. Call Torgenson Law at (602) 726-0747 for a free consultation. We will give you the honest and informative assessment of your personal injury claim that you deserve.

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John Torgenson

After high school, John attended the University of Utah, graduating in 2001. John then attended his dream school, Notre Dame Law School, where he graduated, with honors, in 2004. John is licensed to fight in court for real people in the State of Arizona, the United States Federal District Court of Arizona, and the 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Before establishing what is now Torgenson Law, John practiced in the litigation group at Fennemore Craig, the oldest law firm in Arizona, and one of the largest firms in the Southwest. Having practiced at Fennemore Craig in both the defense and plaintiff’s practice areas gives John a complete perspective of the litigation process, and valuable insight into how to efficiently and effectively advance his clients’ interests. His unique and balanced background enhances his credibility with defense lawyers, insurers, and defendants as well as with judges and arbitrators.