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Legal Memorandum: Landowner's Liability for Injuries

Issue: UNDER VIRGIN ISLANDS LAW, WHETHER A LANDOWNER MAY BE SUBJECT TO LIABILITY UNDER RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS  422 FOR THE INJURIES OF AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR’S EMPLOYEE.

Area of Law: Construction Law, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Landowner's liability; Independent contractor's employee; Injuries
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 202 N.W.2d 157; 327 F. Supp. 583; 877 P.2d 371; 198 F. Supp. 2d 632; 456 F.2d 1299; 817 F.2d 1030; 818 A.2d 893; 823 A.2d 1221; 570 N.W.2d 1; 523 N.W.2d 300; 237 F. Supp. 2d 598; 453 P.2d 345; 481 N.W.2d 520; 60 F.3d 688; 973 S.W.2d 488; 403 P.2d 330; 311 F.3d 237; 880 F. Supp. 311; 866 S.W.2d 128; 53 F.3d 1381; 522 N.W.2d 445; 979 P.2d 322
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts § 409; 24 V.I.C. § 35(c); Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 410, §§ 411, 413, 414, 416, 422,427
Date: 11/01/2004

The following outline of authorities provides information on this issue:

A.        Restatement (Second) of Torts

1.         General Rule:

a.         “[T]he employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another by an act or omission of the contractor or his servants.”  Restatement (Second) of Torts § 409 (1965).

b.         Comment: “[S]ince the employer has no power of control over the manner in which the work is to be done . . . , it is to be regarded as the contractor’s own enterprise, and he, rather than the employer, is the proper party to be charged with the responsibility of preventing the risk, and bearing and distributing it.”  Id. cmt. b. 

c.         Note: The exceptions tend to swallow the rule.

2.         Sections 410 to 415 Address Situations Involving the Employer/Landowner’s Own, Direct Negligence.

 

a.         In the Virgin Islands, the landowner may be sued by the employee of an independent contractor for the landowner’s direct negligence (as opposed to its vicarious liability for the negligence of the independent contractor).

b.         Section 414 imposes liability on the landowner when it retains substantial control over the work, methods and details employed by the independent contractor:

c.         Section 414 provides: “One who entrusts work to an independent contractor, but who retains control of any part of the work, is subject to liability for physical harm to others for whose safety the employer […]

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