Koepke v. Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Inc., 1

CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona
Writing for the CourtMEYERSON
Citation682 P.2d 425,140 Ariz. 420
PartiesAdele KOEPKE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CARTER HAWLEY HALE STORES, INC., a California corporation, Defendant-Appellee. 6007.
Docket NumberCA-CIV,No. 1,1
Decision Date17 January 1984

Page 425

682 P.2d 425
140 Ariz. 420
Adele KOEPKE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
CARTER HAWLEY HALE STORES, INC., a California corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 1 CA-CIV 6007.
Court of Appeals of Arizona,
Division 1, Department B.
Jan. 17, 1984.

[140 Ariz. 422]

Page 427

James W. Hill, Ltd. by James W. Hill, Phoenix, for plaintiff-appellant.

Snell & Wilmer by Lawrence F. Winthrop, Phoenix, for defendant-appellee.


MEYERSON, Presiding Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Adele Koepke (Koepke) was injured while shopping at a Broadway department store owned by defendant-appellee Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Inc. (Broadway). Although Broadway was open for business when the accident occurred, the store was undergoing extensive remodeling and repair. As Koepke was walking down the aisle to the elevator, two employees of Standard Cabinet Works, Inc. (Standard), an independent contractor hired by Broadway for the construction, stretched a chalk line in her path across the aisle. Koepke tripped on the line and fell, seriously injuring her knee. Koepke sued both Broadway and Standard for negligence. Koepke's claim against Standard was settled for $35,000 and reduced to judgment. 1 The trial court subsequently entered summary judgment in favor of Broadway and Koepke brought this appeal.

In order to evaluate the propriety of summary judgment for Broadway, it is necessary to distinguish among the various theories of liability asserted by Koepke. In essence, Koepke presents the following bases for recovery against Broadway:

(1) Vicarious liability for Standard's negligence under Restatement (Second) of Torts § 422 (1965) (Restatement).

(2) Liability for the negligence of Standard because Broadway retained control of Standard's work.

(3) Liability based upon Broadway's independent negligence.

The trial court found that under Arizona law Koepke could assert no claim of vicarious liability against Broadway. With respect to the remaining theories, the trial court found no disputed facts and that Broadway was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Because we agree with Koepke that the trial court incorrectly granted Broadway's motion for summary judgment with respect to her claim under Restatement § 422, we begin our discussion with this important issue.


Restatement § 422 defines one of several exceptions to the general rule of employer non-liability for the negligence of independent[140 Ariz. 423]

Page 428

contractors. 2 It provides in relevant part:

A possessor of land who entrusts to an independent contractor construction, repair, or other work upon the land, or on a building or other structure upon it, is subject to the same liability as though he had retained the work in his own hands to others on or outside of the land for physical harm caused to them by the unsafe condition of the structure

(a) while the possessor has retained possession of the land during the progress of the work ....

Illustration (1) following this section explains the operation of this rule:

A, the owner of a department store, employs an independent contractor to construct a monitor over a skylight above one of the aisles in his store. A retains possession of the premises while the work is being done, and the store remains open for business. By reason of the negligence of the contractor while the work is in progress, the monitor is insecurely fastened, and falls through the skylight, injuring B, a customer in the aisle of the store. A is subject to liability to B.

Koepke argues that the facts in this case fall squarely within this section and therefore Broadway may be held vicariously liable for her injuries. Broadway admits that application of Restatement § 422 would preclude summary judgment in its favor, but asserts that Restatement § 422 simply is not the law in Arizona.

It is well established that we will follow the Restatement in the absence of Arizona law to the contrary. Jesik v. Maricopa County Community College Dist., 125 Ariz. 543, 546, 611 P.2d 547, 550 (1980). The present case presents such a situation. We have found no Arizona decision expressly accepting or rejecting application of Restatement § 422 in a case where the landowner, who retains control of his premises during construction, is sued by his invitee for injuries caused by the alleged negligence of an independent contractor performing the construction or repair. 3 Additionally, we believe adoption of Restatement § 422 is supported by sound policy considerations.

Other jurisdictions have examined the advisability of imposing vicarious liability on the employer of an independent contractor in similar situations. Many of these courts view this doctrine as an extension of the employer's non-delegable duties to the business invitee. In Lipman Wolfe & Co. v. Teeples & Thatcher, Inc., 268 Or. 578, 522 P.2d 467 (1974), a retail store hired a contractor to perform extensive remodeling, but chose to keep the store open for business. A customer fell on a slippery substance which a subcontractor had spread on the floor to prepare it for laying tile. She then sued the store which tendered the defense to the independent contractor and the subcontractor. The tender was refused and the store settled with the customer and then brought an indemnity action to recover the amount of the settlement. The [140 Ariz. 424]

Page 429

court concluded that the store was entitled to indemnification because of the store's vicarious liability under Restatement § 422. The court held:

The storekeeper, of course, has the duty to have its premises in a reasonably safe condition for the reception of its customers. The storekeeper is liable for the negligence of its own employees who fail to keep the store in a reasonably safe condition. When a contractor is brought in to remodel or repair and the store permits customers to continue to enter the premises the danger to customers increases. Under such circumstances it would be inconsistent to hold that a storekeeper can escape liability by asserting that the increased danger to its customers was created by an independent contractor and therefore, the storekeeper is not liable.

Id. at 585-86, 522 P.2d at 470 (citations omitted).

The New Jersey Supreme Court has also utilized a non-delegable duty theory to impose liability on a contracting employer. In Mayer v. Fairlawn Jewish Center, 38 N.J. 549, 186 A.2d 274 (1962), it held:

Under the circumstances of this case, Center had a non-delegable duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety of persons using the premises at its invitation. If, while repairs or structural alterations were going on, a dangerous condition was created which resulted in injury to an invitee liability for damages would exist. And with respect to that liability it would be immaterial whether the construction work was being performed by the Center's own employees or by an independent...

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