Gonzalez v. Mathis, 2021 WL 3671594 (Cal. S. Ct. 2021)

John R. Mathis (aka Johnny Mathis) lives in a one-story house with a flat, sand-and-gravel roof.  The roof contains a large skylight covering an indoor pool.  Luis Gonzalez is a professional window washer who regularly cleaned Mathis’s skylight.  At the direction of Mathis’s housekeeper, Gonzalez went up on the roof to tell his employees to use less water while cleaning the skylight because water was leaking into the house.  Gonzalez, who did not have workers’ compensation insurance, slipped and fell to the ground, sustaining serious injuries.  In this action, Gonzalez sued Mathis, claiming the accident was caused by “dangerous conditions” on Mathis’s roof.  The trial court granted Mathis’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Mathis owed no duty to Gonzalez based on the Privette doctrine, which insulates the hirer of an independent contractor from liability under most circumstances.  The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that a landowner may be liable to an independent contractor or its workers for injuries resulting from known hazards.  In this opinion, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal and ordered that the trial court’s dismissal on summary judgment be affirmed:  “Under Privette, a landowner presumptively delegates to an independent contractor all responsibility for workplace safety, including the responsibility to ensure that the work can be performed safely despite a known hazard on the worksite.”