Suarez v. Pacific Northstar Mechanical


Pacific Northstar Mechanical was the HVAC subcontractor working at a multi-employer construction site. One of its employees was slightly injured by a preexisting, nonobvious hazard (an ungrounded light fixture) that was not created in the course of Pacific’s work. The employee told his foreman about the incident; the foreman did not report it to the general contractor. Shortly thereafter, Suarez (an employee of the general contractor) was seriously injured by the same hazard.

Suarez sued Pacific. Pacific filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that it owed no duty of care to Suarez, as it did not own or control the property, did not create the dangerous condition, and was not hired to inspect or work on the ungrounded light fixture. The trial court granted summary judgment for Pacific on Suarez’s cause of action for negligence. Suarez appealed.


Reversed. The court held that although no common law or contractual duty existed, Pacific owed a statutory duty of care under Labor Code Section 6400.

This case created a new duty of care that requires each employer at a multiemployer worksite to report (to the general contractor) all non obvious hazards about which the employer learns because its employees were exposed to the hazard even if the employer did not create the hazard.