Arizona Employer Liability for Negligence of Its Independent Contractors

In Arizona, an employer is not ordinarily liable for the negligent acts of its independent contractors. Ft. Lowell-NSS Ltd. P'ship v. Kelly, 166 Ariz. 96, 101, 800 P.2d 962, 967 (1990); E.L. Jones Constr. Co. v. Noland, 105 Ariz. 446, 454, 466 P.2d 740, 748 (1970); Miller v. Westcor Ltd. P'ship, 171 Ariz. 387, 390-91, 831 P.2d 386, 389-90 (App. 1991). The reason for this rule is that because an employer lacks control over an independent contractor's work, the independent contractor is the "proper party to be charged with the responsibility of preventing the risk, administering it, and distributing it." Ft. Lowell, 166 Ariz. at 100, 800 P.2d at 966 (citing W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 71, at 509 (5th Ed. 1984)). There are several exceptions to this general rule, however. Id. at 101, 800 P.2d at 967 ("Many exceptions to the rule of nonliability have now been recognized so that even where the employer has not been personally negligent, he may be vicariously liable for the contractor's negligence."). One such exception is when an independent contractor is hired to perform an "inherently dangerous" activity. See Miller, 171 Ariz. at 391, 831 P.2d at 390; Bible v. First Nat'l Bank of Rawlins, 21 Ariz. App. 54, 57, 515 P.2d 351, 354 (1973); Restatement (Second) of Torts 427 (1965). The supreme court applied this exception in S.A. Gerrard. 42 Ariz. at 507, 27 P.2d at 680.