When owners use independent contractors to do work at their facilities, owners remain responsible for complying with environmental regulations, even if any non-compliance is caused by the contractor. However, owners are generally shielded from liability for physical harm to others resulting from a contractor’s negligence if the owner does not control the work of the contractor.  Owners have struggled with determining what they can require of contractors while still avoiding control of them and expanding the owner’s potential liability.

Owner Could Not Control Means, Methods, or Details
In AEP Texas Central v. Arredondo, the Supreme Court of Texas identified certain requirements owners can place on contractors without becoming potentially liable for the contractor’s negligence.  Specifically, the Court held that insisting the contractor have a designated representative at the work site at all times to receive owner’s instructions did not give the owner the right to “control the means, methods, or details” of the contractor’s work.

The Court noted other requirements owners could place on contractors without increasing theoretical liability.  For example, they can 1) set the start and stop time, 2) identify the location for performing the work, or 3) require work be done as expeditiously as possible with prompt restoration of the job area.  Thus, owners are given “some latitude to tell its independent contractors what to do, in general terms.”

To see the Court’s opinion, https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1450078/190045.pdf

December 10 Presentation
You are welcome to attend my presentation “The Impact of the Election on the Law and Clients” via Zoom from noon to 1 PM Central on Thursday December 10, 2020.  If interested, please send an email to Jackie Krejci, jkrejci@craincaton.com, and she will have the Zoom link sent to you.  She can also provide the continuing education information.