"Common work area" claim dismissed
Brent Curry, a licensed electrician, was injured when he stepped into a gap between the on-site construction temporary trailer and the metal stairs providing access to it. The stairs had never been affixed to the trailer, but no one knew when it separated sufficiently from the trailer to create a gap wide enough to constitute a hazard to workers. On that basis, the courts dismissed Curry's injury claim against the contractor.
The Court noted that although the general contractor, Cornerstone Building Group, Inc., did not "own" the premises, it exercised possession and control of the trailer and stairs during construction, making it responsible to provide "the highest level of protection" to business invitees like Curry. That included a duty to make the premises safe and a duty to inspect the premises and identify dangerous conditions that might cause injury. Nevertheless, the Court upheld the dismissal of Curry's case on the grounds that he couldn't prove that the gap should have been identified and recognized as a danger by the contractor. It refused to address his allegation that this kind of "drift" of the stairway away from a construction trailer is a well known phenomenon that should have been anticipated by the general, which we would think creates a fact question for the jury to decide.
Since the Court concluded that Curry had not proved the contractor should have identified the hazardous gap prior to his injury, it also held that he had not documented a "common work area" theory because he had not proved an "avoidable danger to which a significant number of workers are exposed."