TORTS (WORKERS COMP) – “Up the ladder” immunity, formal written contract not required: Greg Beaver (d/b/a Beaver Construction Co.) v. Kevin Oakley & Crawford Electric, Inc. (SC 3/19/2009)

Greg Beaver (d/b/a Beaver Construction Co.) v. Kevin Oakley & Crawford Electric, Inc.
2006-SC-000813-DG March 19, 2009

Opinion by Chief Justice Minton; all sitting, all concur.

Oakley brought suit in tort against Beaver for injuries suffered at a construction site. The trial court granted summary judgment to Beaver, holding he was entitled to “up-the-ladder” immunity from tort liability as a contractor. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that since Oakley’s employer (Crawford Electric) had not contracted with Beaver’s employer (Whitaker Construction Management) there was no contractor/subcontractor relationship though which Beaver could avail himself of up-the-ladder immunity. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s award of summary judgment in favor of Beaver, holding that a formal written contract between an injured worker’s employer and an alleged tortfeasor is not essential to establish up-the-ladder immunity. While acknowledging that Crawford and Whitaker had contractual relationships with the property owner rather than each other, the Court concluded that the “paperwork obscured the reality of the functional contractor/subcontractor relationship.”

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