John M. Kirby June 30, 2014

On August 7, 2012, the Court of Appeals held that a worker who fell three floors could not sue the company that installed the "nut" that failed, causing his fall, because of the "completed and accepted" doctrine

In this case, a welding company installed a safety cable on the third floor, as required by OSHA. It secured the cable securely at the ends, and installed a "nut" on a beam to keep the cable at 42 inches, as required by OSHA. This welder finished its work and left the jobsite. Subsequently, another contractor altered the cable, after which this nut (designed to keep the cable at the proper height) was used to secure the cable. Another worker then tested the strength of the wire by leaning against it, and he fell three floors. He sued the welder for negligence in installing and using the nut.

The court held that the worker's claim was barred by the "completed and accepted" doctrine. Pursuant to this doctrine, a contractor (or subcontractor) cannot be held liable for injuries to a third person caused by the contractor's work, where the work was completed, and then accepted by the general contractor (or owner). One theory behind the rule is that the contractor no longer has control over the work after it is relinquished to the general contractor.

There are very few cases actually applying this rule to deny a claim in North Carolina, but this case applied the doctrine. The court held that teh worker could not sue the welding company because the welding company's work had been completed and accepted. In an odd part of the analysis, however, the court noted that the welder's work was done properly and was thereafter altered by the contractor; this seems, logically to be an independent reason for ruling for the weldign company, and is not a required showing for the application of the completed and accepted doctrine. The case of Lamb v. D.S. Duggins Welding applies one aspect of North Carolina construction law. The court in this case rejected several arguments to distinguish prior cases, including that the welder specifically owed a duty to the worker, versus a third person not working on the contruction site during construction.