Navarro v. Borges

Navarro v. Borges

3d DCA, 4/3/24

No. 3D23-0175, 2024 WL 1422996

Judge Miller

Topics: Contractor; Negligence; Premises Liability; Summary Judgment

Quick Take: A contractor that controls and supervises a job site has the duty to provide a safe work site. A contractor can be held liable for a dangerous condition it negligently created or approved. Individual officers and agents of a contractor can be personally sued even for acts taken in the course of employment if they were personally “actively negligent.” There was evidence that the president of the contractor personally sent his employee to adjust a roof tarp without adequate safety equipment, so summary judgment in the president’s favor was reversed, and the case will be sent back down for trial.

Full Take: This is a premises liability case. Plaintiff Claudio Navarro worked for Star Brite Group, Inc., a general contracting company that works in the construction industry. Defendant Alfredo L. Borges was the president of the company.

In 2017, Defendant Borges sent Plaintiff Navarro to place a tarp on the roof of a home damaged by Hurricane Irma. He was given no safety equipment. About two weeks later, the tarp shifted, the roof began leaking again, and Defendant Borges ordered that someone had to go fix it quickly because an insurance inspection was scheduled for the following afternoon. Plaintiff Navarro and another employee went early the next morning. Plaintiff Navarro mounted the roof without any safety equipment, but he fell and sustained significant bodily injuries.

Plaintiff Navarro sued Defendant Borges, arguing that Borges breached a duty to furnish adequate safety equipment. Defendant Borges moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that he instructed Navarro to secure the tarp on the day of the incident, so he had no duty to provide safety equipment. Navarro opposed the motion, asserting that the conversations reported by Borges, at a minimum, precluded summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, and Plaintiff Navarro appealed.

It is axiomatic that a contractor, as an entity that controls and supervises a job site, has the duty to provide a safe work site. A contractor can be held liable for a dangerous condition it “negligently created or approved.” Individual officers and agents of a corporation are personally liable where they have committed a tort even if such acts are performed within the scope of their employment or as corporate officers or agents. For individual liability to attach, however, the plaintiff must establish the corporate officer or agent was “actively negligent.”

Here, there was testimony that Defendant Borges gave the initial order to place the tarp on the roof of the residence and then go and adjust it when the tarp failed. No safety equipment was provided either time. The exact word in the record was that Borges “programmed” Navarro to go adjust the tarp, and that word is admittedly “nebulous if considered in isolation,” but in the context of the record and in a light most favorable to Navarro, it connotes an affirmative act. REVERSED AND REMANDED for further proceedings.

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