Supervision: Grounds for claim of negligence?

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Construction is fraught with possible lawsuits. Even besides the possibilities of defective work or materials, accidents can occur. But what if an accident arises because of the failure to supervise someone at the jobsite? For example, a superintendent’s failure to supervise a worker or train them properly? The law is not definitive on this, but generally superintendents can sleep relatively easily.

In Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone v. Dowdy, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed a claim for negligent supervision; however, its application has been various interpreted by the lower courts, with some concluding the court did not preclude any supervision claims under any facts, including “negligence per se” or negligence as a matter of law because of non-compliance with a statutory obligation. While there are various statutory obligations associated with construction projects, generally courts appear reluctant to allow this type of claim against a supervisor. But it is something to consider depending upon your point of view or whether you were injured or are claimed as the cause of the injury.

A good summary of the law on Dowdy’s application was written by Judge Dorsey of Roanoke in In re Gilbertson, 78 Va. Cir. 295 (2009).

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