Kinsman v. Unocal Asbestos case: Discussion of the Privette and Austin v. Riverside cases
Read the discussion in the Kinsman v. Unocal asbestos case, where the Privette and Austin v. Riverside cases are discussed.
In Austin v. Riverside Portland Cement Co. (1955) 44 Cal.2d 225, a case that predates Privette, the employee of an independent contractor hired by the cement company to work on its premises was electrocuted when the boom of a crane used to repair the company’s rock crushing equipment became electrically charged by coming in contact with overhead power lines during nighttime operations.
In affirming a verdict for the plaintiff, the court concluded there was evidence that these power lines posed a great hazard to the independent contractor’s employees, particularly when the work was carried out at night and the power lines were invisible, and that it was negligent not to request that the power lines be deenergized.
It was also clear from the evidence that the company had the sole authority to request the state, which controlled the power lines, to deenergize the power lines, and that the contractor’s supervisor had requested the lines be deenergized but the company superintendent refused because it would have required the plant to be shut down.
Therefore, because the hirer had not delegated to the contractor the authority to undertake a critical employee safety measure, and the contractor’s employee was injured as a result of that measure not being undertaken, the court concluded the hirer could be liable to the employee.
With these principles in mind, we review the doctrine of landowner liability and consider how this doctrine relates to the Privette doctrine.
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