John M. Becker
Experienced Legal Counsel for Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, LSRPs
& Construction Related Professionals
HUNTERDON CENTRAL REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
338 N.J.Super. 572 (App Div. 1999)
This case involved a wrongful death action brought the surviving spouse of an excavation contractor against the school board and the architect after the excavation contractor was crushed the death when the trench in which he was laying pipe for the school's scoreboard collapsed. The Superior Court, Law Division, Hunterdon County, entered summary judgment for defendants for the architect finding the architect owed no duty to the excavation contractor because the architect had no job site supervision responsibility. The surviving spouse appealed the dismissal. The Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that: (1) whether school board and architect had viable comparative negligence claim was separate from the issue of whether they had duty of care to excavation contractor; (2) a genuine issues of material fact as to degree of control and supervision, role in supply of uncorrugated drainage pipe, and opportunity and capacity to take corrective measures or warn the excavation contractor to brace trench precluded summary judgment; and (3) the collapse of the trench was foreseeable. The decision of the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court for further discovery.