Is Property Owners Liable for Subcontractors Negligence In California ?

The Zamudio v. City and County of San Francisco (1999) 70 Cal. App. 4th 445 court held the property owner and general contractor had no liability to the employee. They could not be vicariously liable for the negligence of the subcontractor under Privette v. Superior Court (1993) and Toland v. Sunland Housing Group, Inc. (1998), because the employee received workers' compensation benefits. They could not be directly liable, because they had no control over how the subcontractor performed the work and committed no affirmative act which contributed to the accident. (Zamudio, supra, 70 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 452-453.) The plaintiff in Zamudio did contend as part of his negligence claim that "failure to provide adequate safety equipment" contributed to the accident. (Zamudio, supra, 70 Cal. App. 4th at p. 449.) However, we see a distinction between a claim of failing to provide safety equipment, as in Zamudio, and providing unsafe equipment. There was no evidence in Zamudio that the owner or general contractor provided any unsafe equipment. As the court noted, the plank was owned by the subcontractor, not the property owner. the owner's property "was not itself dangerous." (Id., at p. 455.)