Legal Environment Cases

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Case 19.2 - Independent Contractors The Butler Telephone Company, Inc. (Butler), contracted with Sandidge Construction Company to lay 18 miles of telephone cable in a rural area. In the contract, Butler reserved the right to inspect the work for compliance with the terms of the contract. Butler did not control how Sandidge performed the work. Johnnie Carl Pugh, an employee of Sandidge, was killed on the job when the sides to an excavation in which he was working caved in on top of him. Evidence disclosed that the excavation was not properly shored and sloped and that it violated general safety standards. Pugh’s parents and estate brought a wrongful death action against Butler. Is Butler liable? Pugh v.Butler Telephone Company, Inc., 512So.2d 1317, 1987 Ala. Lexis 4468 (Ala.) Pugh’s parents and estate brought a wrongful death action against Butler. Is Butler liable? An independent contract is determined if the principle hires the other with no or limited control over the other. Butler hired Sandidge as a contractor. Pugh was working for Sandidge as an employee who were acting as independent contractor at time of the death. The principle, Butler, is not liable for torts caused by the third party/independent contractor. The respondent superior does not apply to this case since Sandidge is an independent contractor. Because Butler did not have any control on how Sandidge performed their work, there is no ground for Pugh’s to sue for wrongful death. In fact, Sandidge should be held liable for not meeting safety standards since Mr. Pugh was technically employed by Sandige. “For a general contractor to be liable for its independent contractor's acts, it must have the right to control the means, methods, or details of the independent contractor's work. Further, the control must relate to the injury the negligence causes, and the contract must grant the

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