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The California Supreme Court ruled last year on an important issue for businesses using independent contractors to provide service, holding specifically as follows:  “Unlike a mere employee, an independent contractor, by virtue of the contract, has authority to determine the manner in which inherently dangerous construction work is to be performed, and thus assumes legal responsibility for carrying out the contracted work, including the taking of workplace safety precautions.  Having assumed responsibility for workplace safety, an independent contractor may not hold a hiring party vicariously liable for injuries resulting from the contractor’s own failure to effectively guard against risks inherent in the contracted work.”  (Tverberg v. Fillener Construction, Inc., California Supreme Court No. S169753, June 28, 2010)  This decision does not of course relieve the hiring party from responsibility for its own workplace or conditions it creates itself.  The Supreme Court’s ruling parallels its earlier important ruling that “the hirer of an independent contractor is not vicariously liable for the contractor’s employee who sustains on-the-job injuries resulting from special or peculiar risks inherent in the work”, because such injuries are covered by the contractor’s workers compensation insurance, the cost of which is generally included in the project price (Privette v. Superior Court, 5 Cal.4th 689 (1993)).

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