Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc.

Decision Date10 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97-1207,97-1207
Citation714 So.2d 518
Parties23 Fla. L. Weekly D1396 Gregorio ARMENTEROS, and Maria Armenteros, his wife, Appellants, v. BAPTIST HOSPITAL OF MIAMI, INC., A Florida corporation, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Casuso & Lopez and David A. Wagner and Raul R. Lopez, Gainesville, for appellants.

Wicker, Smith, Tutan, O'Hara, McCoy, Graham & Ford and Shelley H. Leinicke, Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.

Before NESBITT, GODERICH and SHEVIN, JJ.

NESBITT, Judge.

Gregorio Armenteros was employed by a subcontractor hired by the general contractor building a structure on Baptist Hospital's grounds. Armenteros claimed that he was injured in a fall from defectively erected scaffolding, and sued the hospital asserting that Baptist had breached its duty of care by allowing an unsafe work condition to remain uncorrected on its premises. Baptist answered and moved for summary judgment on its affirmative defense that it owed no duty to a subcontractor's employee. Armenteros opposed summary judgment asserting that Baptist had retained the right to, and did, exercise control over the day-to-day construction operations, hence, Baptist was liable as an owner/contractor. The court granted summary final judgment in Baptist's favor. We affirm.

Armenteros' accident occurred on a construction site at Baptist where a multi-story addition was being added above an existing surgery center building. The project was known as the Miami Vascular Institute Clinical Services Expansion Project at Baptist. Throughout the course of the project, Baptist continued to operate its hospital and to provide medical and surgical care to its patients. Surgeries were performed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To ensure the safety of these patients, the construction schedule had to be sensitive to ongoing hospital activities and the goal of maintaining quality patient care.

To this end, the construction contract stated that construction workers were limited to certain entrances and exits so that the hospital could avoid widespread contamination by construction debris and dirt. Similarly, the contract provided that construction workers could not use the hospital cafeteria area. Baptist retained the right to stop work temporarily if the construction was interfering with surgical procedures. The evidence showed that jack hammering and other construction activities could cause excessive vibrations in the surgical site located on a floor directly beneath the construction site. One eye surgeon had delicate surgical equipment mounted on the ceiling of the operating room which would vibrate dangerously and unacceptably if certain types of construction work were taking place. To accommodate surgical schedules, construction might be stopped for thirty minutes during an eye surgery.

In addition to the construction of the Miami Vascular Institute Clinical Services Expansion Project, Baptist was simultaneously undergoing construction on other parts of the hospital. Centex-Rodgers Construction Company was hired to perform a variety of functions, including control of the construction management on the multiple projects. The hospital needed assistance in managing all facets of those projects because some subcontractors worked on all projects and others only worked on a few of the projects. Without Centex-Rodgers, there would have been three or four general contractors all working on different construction jobs. However, a construction contract was signed on November 13, 1991, between Baptist Hospital and Centex-Rodgers which specifically identified Baptist as the owner and Centex-Rodgers as the general contractor. 1

This contract expressly directed that all portions of the contract were to be performed by subcontractors or other appropriate agreement with the general contractor. It was undisputed that Centex-Rodgers pulled the permit and was responsible for all administrative work and for ensuring all items were coordinated with the contract documents. Centex-Rodgers prepared all purchase orders, conducted weekly safety meetings with the subcontractors, and otherwise performed all general day-to-day supervision of the job. Centex-Rodgers developed the bid packages to solicit bids from subcontractors. One of the Centex-Rodgers employees had overall responsibility to oversee all day-to-day construction activities, including overseeing all subcontractors and ensuring that they were doing their work properly and conforming with the contract documents and specifications.

Armenteros was injured while in the course of his employment for General Forming Corporation, a subcontractor who was responsible for certain concrete work on the project. General Forming, like all of the successful bidders/subcontractors, had its contract with Centex-Rodgers and not with Baptist.

As a general rule, one who hires an independent contractor is not liable for injuries sustained by that contractor's employees in their work. See Van Ness v. Independent Constr. Co., 392 So.2d 1017 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981); Lake Parker Mall, Inc. v. Carson, 327 So.2d 121, 123 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976). As the Supreme Court observed in Conklin v. Cohen, 287 So.2d 56, 60 (Fla.1973):

the owner may be held liable if he has been actively participating in the construction to the extent that he directly influences the manner in which the work is performed. Conversely, if the owner is a passive nonparticipant, exercising no direct control over the project, he cannot be held liable. To impose liability upon an owner who is not an employer as defined by the statute, one or more specific identifiable acts of negligence, I. e., acts either negligently creating or negligently approving the dangerous condition resulting in the injury or death to the employee, must be established.

Thus, Florida case law has followed the analysis outlined in Restatement(Second)of Torts section 414, which provides:

One who entrusts work to an independent contractor, but who retains the control of any part of the work, is subject to liability for physical harm to others for whose safety the employer owes a duty to exercise reasonable care, which is caused by his failure to exercise his control with reasonable care.

See Martin v. Venice Hosp., 603 So.2d 1377, (Fla. 2d DCA 1992); Clerkin v. Kendall Town & Country Assoc., 535 So.2d 288 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988).

Also, there was no evidence that although the hospital had hired a true general contractor for the construction project, the hospital actively supervised and directed the construction work on the project. See, e.g., Wills, 351 So.2d at 29; Conklin, 287 So.2d at 60; E.J. Strickland Constr., Inc. v. Department of Agric. & Consumer Serv. of Fla., 515 So.2d 1331 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987); Life From The Sea, Inc. v. Levy, 502 So.2d 473, 474 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987).

Appellants' contention is that sufficient testimony was given to make it a jury question whether Baptist had exercised enough control to be considered to have actively supervised and directed the project. However the undisputed facts demonstrate that the hospital did no more than purchase materials to utilize its tax free status, inspect the work to ensure the high standards it sought to maintain, and control schedules so as to permit surgeries to go uninterrupted and patients to go unendangered. See Cruz v. Gables Colony Ltd., 579 So.2d 278 (Fla. 3 DCA 1991) (affirming summary judgment, this court concluded that property owner did not play active role in rendering services provided by independent contractor and owner did not commit specific act of negligence to cause harm to contractor's employee, thus owner had...

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  • Johnson v. Boca Raton Community Hosp., Inc.
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • June 4, 2008
    ...5th DCA 1999) (quoting Van Ness v. Indep. Constr. Co., 392 So.2d 1017, 1019 (Fla. 5th DCA 1981)); Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc., 714 So.2d 518, 520-21 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998); Holsworth v. Fla. Power & Light Co., 700 So.2d 705, 707 (Fla. 4th DCA Exceptions to the general rule exist ......
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    • September 1, 2010
    ...is not entirely free to do the work his own way." Cecile Resort, Ltd., 729 So. 2d at 448 (quoting Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc., 714 So. 2d 518, 522 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998)). In Perez, the City of Miami hired an engineer to monitor a construction site where independent contractors w......
  • Cesar v. North Miami Bakeries Inc.
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • June 29, 2011
    ...contractor is not liable for injuries sustained by that contractor's employees in their work.” Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, 714 So.2d 518, 520–21 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998) (citations omitted). Exceptions to that general rule exist, however, including an exception when an owner “who has ac......
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    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • March 5, 1999
    ...of a right of supervision that the contractor is not entirely free to do the work his own way.' Armenteros v. Baptist Hospital of Miami, Inc., 714 So.2d 518, 522 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998) (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 414). In Armenteros, the Third District observed: "Reviewing the case......
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4 books & journal articles
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Construction Law
    • June 22, 2009
    ...552 n.8 Argonaut Ins. Co. v. Town of Cloverdale, Ind., 699 F.2d 417 (7th Cir. 1983) 385 n.66 Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc. 714 So. 2d 518 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998) 413–415 Arnell Constr. Corp. v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of New York, 598 N.Y.S.2d 1 (N.Y. App. Div. 1993) 447 n.......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Construction Law
    • January 1, 2009
    ...552 n.8 Argonaut Ins. Co. v. Town of Cloverdale, Ind., 699 F.2d 417 (7th Cir. 1983) 385 n.66 Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc. 714 So. 2d 518 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998) 413–415 Arnell Constr. Corp. v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of New York, 598 N.Y.S.2d 1 (N.Y. App. Div. 1993) 447 n.......
  • Construction Safety
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    • ABA Archive Editions Library Construction Law
    • January 1, 2009
    ...often a close question involving important policy issues, as the following case demonstrates: Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc. 714 So. 2d 518 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998) 33 NESBITT, Judge. Gregorio Armenteros was employed by a subcontractor hired by the general contractor building ......
  • Construction Safety
    • United States
    • ABA Archive Editions Library Construction Law
    • June 22, 2009
    ...often a close question involving important policy issues, as the following case demonstrates: Armenteros v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc. 714 So. 2d 518 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998) 33 NESBITT, Judge. Gregorio Armenteros was employed by a subcontractor hired by the general contractor building ......

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