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Tort/Negligence – Contract — Completed & Accepted Work Doctrine – Subcontractor

Tort/Negligence – Contract — Completed & Accepted Work Doctrine – Subcontractor

Lamb v. D.S. Duggins Welding, Inc. (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-07-0804, 13 pp.) (Wanda Bryant, J.) Appealed from Randolph County Superior Court. (Vance Bradford, J.) N.C. App. Full-text opinion.

Holding:  Where a subcontractor’s work on a construction project was completed and accepted by the contractor, and where the subcontractor’s work was later changed by the contractor, the subcontractor cannot be sued for negligence by an employee of the contractor.

The subcontractor was hired to erect the steel decking on a public library project. The sub was also asked to erect an OSHA-required safety cable around the third floor work area. The subcontractor performed both jobs. The safety cable was erected to standard, at 42 inches above walking level, threaded through a column to maintain the correct height and secured at the end with clamps and a turnbuckle. The decking and safety cable were inspected and approved by the contractor.

After the subcontractor left the site, one of the columns through which the safety cable was wired was removed, and the cable was instead fastened by the contractor’s employees to a nut left on another column by the subcontractor. On the day of the accident, when the plaintiff, whose job was to inspect the cable daily, tested the wire, it flew off the nut, and plaintiff fell three stories to the ground.

He sued both the contractor and the subcontractor for damages related to his injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the subcontractor, which led to this appeal.

The “completed and accepted work doctrine”, used only three times in the case law since 1946, supports the award of summary judgment. The doctrine is employed in N.C. only in cases involving repair and construction work. In other jurisdictions, the doctrine has been used to protect a subcontractor from suit by a general contractor’s employee. In this case, the subcontractor’s safety cable was repositioned and refastened to a bolt the subcontractor did not intend for that use.  For that reason, the cable was not “imminently dangerous,” as placed by the subcontractor and therefore did not fall under an exception to the doctrine.

The award of summary judgment was appropriate. Affirmed.



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