In certain circumstances an independent contractor can owe a duty of care to employees of its sub-contractors.

Thistle Hotel had appointed a contractor to rewire their hotel at Victoria Station, London. They sub-contracted the installation of a fire alarm system to a third party. An employee of the third party fell through a skylight window and died.

The sub-contractor admitted liability for the death of their employee but, at first instance, got a judgment of contributions from the main contractor and the occupier.

The Court of Appeal accepted there could be a duty of care from a contractor to employees of his sub-contractor. They had agreed that there be close liaison between the two parties in carrying out the work and had retained the right to supervise the work. This created a duty of care.

However, in these circumstance they had not breached that duty of care because, at the time the claimant died, the contractor had asked nothing more of the sub-contractor than that they investigate possible methods of work and report back.

The judgement against the occupier was overturned for similar reasons.

Gray -v- Fire Alarm Fabrications Services Limited and Others, before Lord Justice May, Lord Justice Gage and Lady Justice Hallet, AC, Judgment November 10, 2006