FRESNO – California's Fifth District Court of Appeal recently reversed a trial court ruling granting a safety consultant's motion for summary judgment in a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a dairy worker killed in a tractor accident.
The opinion filed July 30 by Judge Donald Franson, with Judges Jennifer R.S. Detjen and Herbert Levy concurring, sent the case back to Fresno County Superior Court, noting that there were triable issues of material fact in the case filed by the parents of Oscar Peredia Jr. who was killed when a tractor ran over him while he was working at Double Diamond's dairy in 2012.
Oscar and Laura Peredia filed a complaint against the third-party company HR Mobile Services, who Double Diamond hired several months before the accident to help the dairy with various human resources issues and safety concerns. The Peredias claim that HR is liable for their son’s accident in which a person driving a John Deere tractor struck Oscar Jr. while he was working.
Fresno County Superior Court granted summary judgment to HR Mobile, finding that HR Mobile owed no duty of care to Double Diamond’s employees under California civil code.
In their appeal of that ruling, the Peredias claim that HR Mobile did owe a duty of care to their son and argue that “HR Mobile undertook to perform safety duties that Double Diamond owed to its employees.” The parents claim that “Double Diamond relied on HR Mobiles’ safety program and IIPP (injury and illness prevention plan), thus, did not consider or implement further safety measures.”
HR claims that their agreement with Double Diamond was to help carry out “workplace safety obligations” and that it “did not agree to fully assume Double Diamond’s workplace safety obligations to the employees working at the dairy.”
Judge Franson stated that the Peredias are not required to prove that HR “fully assumed Double Diamond’s safety obligations to its employees,” and that HR Mobile had not shown that the Peredias were unable to establish HR’s alleged negligence as a “substantial factor” in Oscar Jr.’s death.
A safety consultant retained by a California employer owes a duty of care to the employer’s workers, the ruling said.
Franson said HR Mobile “undertook to provide services which were recognized as involving safety concerns” and referred to the Supreme Court definition that safety concerns “by their nature involve consideration of the well-being and protection of third parties: the employees. … It would be disingenuous to conclude, as (defendant) suggests, that the performance of a safety evaluation would not foreseeably give rise to concerns regarding the safety and protection of third parties.”
California Fifth District Court of Appeal case number F074083