Horne v. Ahern Rentals, Inc., 50 Cal. App. 5th 192 (2020)

The surviving heirs of Ruben Dickerson sued Ahern Rentals, a company that leases forklifts and other heavy-duty construction vehicles to its customers.  Dickerson’s employer, 24-Hour Tire Service, provided tire repair and replacement services for Ahern’s equipment.  Dickerson was killed on Ahern’s premises while he was replacing the tires on one of its forklifts.  Dickerson’s heirs received workers’ compensation benefits from 24-Hour’s workers’ compensation insurer.  In this case, the heirs sued Ahern for wrongful death based upon Ahern’s alleged negligence in failing to provide a stable and level surface for the tire change that resulted in Dickerson’s death.  The trial court granted summary judgment to Ahern, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that there is no evidence that Ahern affirmatively contributed to Dickerson’s death because a “hirer like [Ahern] may be liable for injury to an employee of a contractor only if the hirer actively directs the contractor or contractor’s employee to do the work in a particular way or fails to undertake a particular safety measure the hirer promised to do.  There is no such evidence in this case.”  Cf. Savaikie v. Kaiser Found. Hosps., 2020 WL 4013134 (Cal. Ct. App. 2020) (assisted living facility is not liable for death caused by volunteer who struck and killed a pedestrian while driving his vehicle home).