In 1984, a worker named Andre Stute fell 28 feet from the roof of a building on a construction site. The person at fault for his injuries was the general contractor, who did not implement the necessary safety measures on the construction site. Stute’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which reaffirmed that contractors have a duty to protect all workers on the job.
The Stute decision
The state of Washington holds general or upper-tier contractors responsible for the safety of their employees. The general contractor’s responsibility comes with their innate supervisory authority of controlling the workplace. As they have control of the workplace, they must comply with safety and health regulations. Contractors need to make sure that the site has safe work conditions, including safe equipment. That is why contractors may also be held liable for any violations committed by subcontractors.
How does the Stute decision help workers?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 20% (1,061) of worker fatalities in 2019 were in construction. Accidents in construction are common, which is why contractors need to comply with the safety regulations. If they don’t do this, and a worker gets hurt, the worker has the right to sue the contractor.
A worker’s right to sue
An injured worker has the right to file a legal claim against the general contractor for their negligence. The only way the general contractor can prove their innocence is if they show they had a specific safety program with work rules that prevented the violation.
General contractors will try to defend themselves at all costs, which is why injured workers should consider legal representation before filing a lawsuit against them. If the worker wins the lawsuit, the contractor must compensate them with monetary damages, including medical expenses, loss of income, and compensation for physical and emotional pain.