Representative Did Not Have Duty To Make Specific Inspection


A fireman was seriously injured during a training exercise that required rappelling down a rope attached to a snorkel boom. The belt he was using became disconnected from the rope and he fell about 40 feet to the ground. He sued the city’s workers compensation, general liability and motor vehicle liability fleet insurer, alleging that the insurer “undertook to inspect (the city’s) premises for safety, and negligently performed this inspection by failing to recommend the correction of unsafe working conditions and unsafe training practices and procedures, and by failing to recommend adequate and proper equipment and devices to be utilized by (his) employer during training procedures.”

The insurer employed a loss control representative whose duties involved the evaluation of risks and the identification of potential hazards. Contending that no duty was assumed to inspect the equipment and procedures involved in the training exercise, the insurer’s motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court.

The injured fireman appealed, arguing that there were issues of material fact as to whether the insurer breached a legal duty owed to him with respect to its alleged inspections of the fire department premises, inspections and procedures. He also contended there were issues of material fact with respect to whether the insurer breached a duty to inspect and thereby, in effect, caused his injuries.

The appeal court cited Barnes v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 472 So.2d 1041 1042 (Ala. 1985), in which it held that “proof of a general inspection of the premises by the insurance carrier was insufficient to establish a negligent inspection when that proof did not contain any evidence of an undertaking by the insurance carrier to inspect the specific area of the plant where the injury occurred.”

The court found no proof that the inspector voluntarily assumed a duty to inspect the fire department training facility and no evidence that he had observed rappelling exercises. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed (with dissension by one of seven justices) in favor of the insurance company and against the injured fireman.

(RAMSEY, Appellant v. GENERAL ACCIDENT FIRE AND LIFE ASSURANCE CORP., Appellee. Alabama Supreme Court. No. 87-1544. May 12, 1989. CCH 1989-90 Fire and Casualty Cases, Paragraph 1912.)