Minnesota Contractor and Subcontractor Had No Duty for Detour Route Outside Construction ZoneAbstract:
Two passengers died and a third suffered serious injury when the driver of the vehicle in which they rode drove the wrong way in a construction zone detour and hit another vehicle. Representatives of the deceased passengers sued the driver, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN/DOT), and Shafer Contracting Company (Shafer), the contractor responsible for the road construction project. Warning Lites of Minnesota, Inc. (Warning Lites), a subcontractor to Shafer, eventually became an additional direct defendant. The plaintiffs claimed negligence on the parts of both contractors based on their failure to meet contractual and common law duties. An additional claim against Warning Lites alleged the contractor assumed a duty by voluntarily inspecting the traffic control devices on the detour.
The Dakota County District Court granted summary judgment favoring Shafer and Warning Lites on the first claims of negligence. However, the court denied summary judgment for Warning Lites on the claim of voluntary assumption of duty. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota subsequently affirmed summary judgments for the contractors on negligence claims and reversed the decision against Warning Lites, finding motorists had not relied on the subcontractor’s voluntary inspection to provide their safety on the detour. This summary describes the contractors’ appeal.