The state’s high court recently released an opinion in a Texas wrongful death case involving the death of an employee that worked for an independent contractor that was hired by the defendant property owner. The issue in the case was whether the property owner could be held liable for the employee’s death based on a theory of negligently hiring.
According to the court’s opinion, the property owner was an energy company that had hired a drilling company as a contractor to drill a well. A drilling company employee died while working on the well. He was working on the well when a rope caught on a pulley, causing a pipe to hit the employee in the head, which eventually resulted in his death. The employee’s family sued the energy company, alleging that the energy company negligently hired, retained, and supervised the drilling company.
A property owner can be held liable for a claim that harms an independent contractor or the contractor’s employees if the property owner controlled the work and knew or should have known of the risk or danger that caused the contractor harm. Under Chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a property owner can be held liable for an injury to a contractor that is repairing, renovating, constructing, or modifying property, but only if the property owner controlled the work and “had actual knowledge of the danger or condition.”