Plumber's employee can sue "contract manager" for breach of common work area doctrine
Frank DeBeul, a plumber, sued the Barton Malow Company after he was injured after tripping over rebar at a Southfield School system job site. He claimed his trip injury was caused by Barton Malow's failure to maintain safety in a common work area. Barton Malow argued that its only duties arise by contract with the school system and that it owed no separate common law safety duty to the Plaintiff. The trial court agreed and dismissed DeBeul's claim.On appeal, the Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated the lawsuit. The judges held that the lower court had erred by failing to consider Barton Malow's common law duty to maintain a safe common work area. They also looked at the provisions in the contract with the owner/school and pointed out that while Barton Malow's title was "contract manager," its duties at the jobsite were identical to those of a general contractor.