In the case of Ryan v. TCI Architects, et al., TCI Architects entered into an agreement with Gander Mountain to serve as the general contractor on a construction project. The project involved renovations to Gander Mountain’s retail store in Lafayette, Indiana. TCI would hire several subcontractors including BMH Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Craft Mechanical to perform work at the site. Craft would then subcontract with B.A. Romines Sheet Metal to perform heating and ventilation work for the project.

Ryan was an experienced sheet metal worker who was an employee for Romines. He was working at the Gander Mountain construction site when he allegedly fell about 8 to 10 feet and he sustained serious bodily injuries. He filed a lawsuit claiming that Craft and TCI had a duty to provide him with a safe workplace and due to the lack of safety, he was injured. Ryan filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of duty claiming that both defendants had a non-delegable contractual obligation to provide a safe work environment. TCI filed an opposition and cross motion for summary judgment and Craft also filed an opposition to Ryan’s motion. The trial court denied Ryan’s motion and then granted TCI’s motion. Ryan would appeal.

The Indiana Supreme Court noted that while a general contractor ordinarily owes no duty to subcontractor employees, they may assume the duty through a contract. The Court held that TCI assumed a non-delegable duty of care for all workers through its contract with Gander Mountain. They reasoned that TCI demonstrated an intent to assume a non-delegable duty of care for Ryan because the contract stated terms like TCI assumed responsibility for safety precautions and programs and that they also had to designate a safety representative as well. The Court reversed and remanded the case.

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