At-a-Glance Contributor James Allmendinger, A sole practitioner in Durham, NH

Strafford No. 2017-0371
August 8. 2018


  • Whether the defendants, a construction company and its insurer, owed a duty of care to provide supervision, training or safety equipment to the plaintiff, an employee of a roofing subcontractor hired by the construction company.


Plaintiff was employed by a subcontractor, and the subcontractor’s agreement with the general contractor made the subcontractor responsible for the safety of the subcontractor’s employees. Plaintiff was injured when using a torch to melt ice on a roof he was cleaning. His injury he burnt his hands — resulted from his use of cotton gloves to keep his hands warm, instead of the fire-proof rubber gloves required for the work he was performing.

The lower court granted summary judgment for the general contractor and its insurer, and the Supreme Court affirmed. In sum, the Court agreed that the contract between the general contractor and the subcontractor protected the general contractor against injury claims made by employees of its subcontractors.

The Court made short work of the plain- tiff’s arguments. Cases cited for the proposition that a general contractor must provide a safe work area and will be held responsible for risks caused by the general contractor were distinguishable on their facts. And cases holding insurers liable when insuring inherently dangerous work were inapplicable, the Court found, because the danger was not working on a roof in winter, the danger was wearing cotton gloves while working with a torch and a lighter.


Matthew B. Cox of Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin of Dover on the brief and orally, for the plaintiff. Gary M. Burt and Brendan D. O’Brien on the brief, and Mr. Burt orally, of Primmer Piper Eggleston

& Cramer of Manchester, for the defendants.