Washington State Appellate Court decision (November 17, 2014).
An employee of a company hired by an HOA to maintain the common areas, including trees, was injured when a tree fell on him. He sued the HOA claiming that it breached its duty to warn or otherwise protect him, as an invitee on the property, of a dangerous condition on the property that caused his injury.
The trial court held that a landowner’s responsibility for the condition of its land does not make the landowner liable for the negligent acts or omissions of an independent contractor, and the property owner owes no duty to the an employee of an independent contractor to protect him or her from the negligence of this own employer. In this case, the facts demonstrated that the employer maintenance company had maintained the HOA’s landscaping for 30 years and actually had superior knowledge of the trees on the property, and also possessed superior knowledge of tree care in general. Thus, the court concluded that the HOA did not owe the injured employee a duty for a condition that could have been reasonably discovered by the employer and the injured employee in the performance of their duties.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision in finding that landowners who invite individuals with superior knowledge onto their property to make repairs are not required to know of defects the repairs were intended to discover and remedy or to anticipate defects within the expertise of the experts. In such circumstances, the landowner’s duty extends only to dangers “which the contractor or his servants could not reasonably have discovered and of which the owner knew or should have known.”
See decision: Gaona_v._Golf_(Wash._App.,_2