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A California Court of Appeal has ruled in a case of first impression that injury and tort suits by independent contractors, hired by an employer or owner’s primary contractor or vendor, must demonstrate a direct basis of misconduct by the upstream employer or owner before liability attaches.  (Michael v. Denbeste Transportation, Inc., California Court of Appeal No. B173832, March 23, 2006).  In essence, the court adopts California’s so-called Privette doctrine applicable to suits by a contractor’s employee, for suits by subcontractors against the upstream employer or owner.  The Privette doctrine, as now applied to a vendor’s independent contractors, generally holds the upstream employer or owner liable only in the case of work involving a “peculiar risk” of inherently dangerous work, for which the upstream employer or owner is held responsible to see that special precautions are taken to avert the peculiar risks of that work.

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