What is the liability of an independent contractor for accidental damage?

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What is the liability of an independent contractor for accidental damage?

My neighbor recently offered my 16 year old son a job cleaning and painting the roof of his shed. He said he would pay my son for each day of work. On the first day of work my son became light-headed from the toxic cleaning chemical and fell through the roof causing damage to a set of glass window panes stacked in the shed. Our neighbor is furious and demands that my son pays for the damage which amounts to $3000. Is my son obligated to pay this?

Asked on August 10, 2011 Louisiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Whether your on or the neighbor is responsible depends on the specific facts. If the fault is your neighbors, in that he provided particularly toxic chemicals without either providing warnings or safety equipments, or that the roof was so weak as to be dangerous to allow anyone on it, that would tend to argue that the liability is your neighbor's. On the other hand, if you son did not follow obvious safety instructions, either given by the neighbor or on the can, etc. of the cleaning supplies, and so brought about his own collapse, that would argue in favor of your son's liability. Unless you feel your son is blameless, you may wish to try to settle for something  mutually acceptable. Otherwise, wait to see if the neighbor actually sues, then defend yourself (and preferably get a lawyer to help you).


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