Plaintiff Leon C. Brown sued defendant Alfred Brown Company, general contractor, to recover for injuries plaintiff suffered when he fell from a six-story window while working as a brickmason constructing The Deseret Towers Residence Hall at Brigham Young University.
Three defenses were interposed:
(a) that the plaintiff was covered by workmen's compensation and his recovery was limited as provided in that act;
(b) that there was no negligence of the defendant; and
(c) that if there was any negligence, it was plaintiff's own which was the sole proximate cause of his injuries.
Upon a disclosure of facts by depositions, including that of the plaintiff, the trial court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action. Plaintiff appealed.
Alfred Brown Company was the general contractor to build the dormitory known as Deseret Towers. It subcontracted the masonry work to Ashton Construction Company. The latter employed plaintiff Smith as a brickmason. On the day of the accident, June 25, 1969, he was working on a
Plaintiff does not contend otherwise than that he was covered and has been awarded compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. His position is that his employer is Ashton, and not the defendant Brown; and that he is entitled to sue the latter because Sec. 35-1-62 U.C.A. 1953 of the Act preserves to an injured employee a right to sue a "third person" by whose wrongful act he was injured. It provides:
In considering whether the defendant Brown can properly be regarded as a "third person" and "not in the same employment" as the plaintiff, it is appropriate to have in mind certain principles relating to workmen's compensation. The primary purpose was to eliminate the uncertainty, the time, effort and expense involved in the old system which required an injured employee to prove negligence of his employer as a prerequisite to any recovery, and to create a system whereby the injured employee would be assured of medical and hospital care, and a certain though modest compensation for injuries and disabilities suffered, with the attendant benefits to themselves, their families, and to society generally, including the stabilizing effect upon the economy.
The other side of the coin is the correlated important purpose of assuring employers that if they provide this protection for their employees, the employers will themselves be protected against the possibility of exorbitant claims for injuries.
The general rule, which has been approved by this court a number of times is that the act should be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose of providing protection to employees.
Reverting our attention to the issue in this case in the light of the foregoing principles,
The "trade or business of the employer," defendant Brown, was the total project: the construction of the dormitory.
If the total situation shown in this case, including the supervisory authority given the general contractor Brown by the Clause 3 just quoted, is viewed in the light of the principles herein discussed as applied to the controlling statutes, the trial court was justified in viewing the situation thus: that the defendant general contractor Brown had sufficient supervision and control over the "subcontractors under him," [i.e. Ashton], that "all persons employed by any such subcontractor" [i.e., plaintiff Smith] should be deemed an employee of the general contractor defendant Brown; and that consequently the plaintiff would be covered by workmen's compensation as an employee of the latter
The sustaining of the trial court's ruling on the basis discussed above renders it unnecessary to consider the other propositions relied upon by the defendant: that there was no negligence on its part, and that if there was negligence, it was the plaintiff's own which caused his fall. However, we think it not amiss to observe that, assuming negligence might be found against the defendant in leaving the open window, this was a static condition, observable to and observed by the plaintiff, and there would be a serious question as to whether under the particular circumstances shown it should be ruled as a matter of law that plaintiff's own conduct was the later intervening and therefore sole proximate cause of the accident, which problem we do not reach nor deal with on this review.
Affirmed. Costs to defendant (respondent).
CALLISTER, C.J., and TUCKETT, HENRIOD and ELLETT, JJ., concur.