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"Common work area" premises liability claim by injured worker is analyzed on appeal

George Madley sued Centex Real Estate Corporation after he was hurt on the jobsite.   He argued that Centex was negligent in controlling a common work area for the safety of sub-contractors' employees.    Centex had subbed out construction at a Macomb County residential housing development where Madley was hurt after being dispatched to finish "shoe and hardware" installation [installation of trim, door knobs, etc.].  Arriving at the dark, unlit and unfinished home he had been directed to trim out, Madley fell eight feet into the basement of the home after failing to recognize that another sub-contractor had removed the basement stairs to perform foundation work.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court had erred in failing to dismiss Madley's "common work area" claim against Centex.  It ruled that Madley's attorneys had failed to prove that the removed stairway hazard "create[d] a high degree of risk to a significant number of workmen" as required to hold the general contractor responsible for a job site injury it did not cause directly.  Because the stairway had been removed in the past three weeks and there was no evidence of other work being performed at this house in the recent past, the Court concluded that Madley's lawyers had not proved that any other workers were exposed to the "undoubtedly...dangerous condition." 

The Court also ruled that Madley may amend his complaint to allege a premises liability claim against the general contractor.  The Defendant had argued that such a claim is not viable where the property is under construction.  While the Court acknowledged that there is a conflict of law on this point in Michigan, it  concluded that longstanding Michigan jurisprudence appeared to allow such a claim on behalf of an injured person. 

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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