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AGO 1953 No. 459 - January 13, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

LIABILITY OF A PRINCIPAL CONTRACTOR LIABLE FOR PREMIUMS DUE THE ACCIDENT AND MEDICAL AID FUNDS FOR EXTRA-HAZARDOUS WORK PERFORMED UNDER A SUB‑CONTRACTOR.

A principal contractor who lets a contract for extra-hazardous work shall be liable directly and primarily for the payment of premiums to the accident and medical aid funds for work performed under such contract, under the provisions of RCW 51.12.070, and such provision does not offend against Article 1, § 3 of the state constitution or the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution.

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                                                                 January 13, 1953 

Honorable A. M. Johnson, Director
Department of Labor & Industries
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 459

 Dear Mr. Johnson:

             We acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 25, 1952, wherein you request our opinion on the following question:

             "Does the Department of Labor & Industries have the right to hold a principal contractor liable for premiums due the accident and medical aid funds for extra-hazardous work performed under a subcontractor?"

             Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The Department of Labor & Industries has the right, under the provisions of RCW 51.12.070, to hold a principal contractor liable for all premiums due to the accident and medical aid funds for work performed in extra-hazardous employment, whether or not such work is performed under a prime or subcontract.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 51.12.070), provides in part as follows:

             "The provisions of this title shall apply to all extrahazardous work done by contract; the person, firm, or corporation who lets a contract for such extrahazardous work shall be responsible primarily and directly for all payments due to the accident fund and medical aid fund upon the work.  The contractor and any subcontractor shall be subject to the provisions of this title and the person, firm, or corporation letting the contract shall be entitled to collect from the contractor the full amount payable to the accident fund and medical aid fund, and the contractor in turn shall be entitled to collect from the subcontractor his proportionate amount of the payment."

             In the case of State ex rel. Davis-Smith Co., v. Clausen, 65 Wash. 156, 117 Pac. 1101, the constitutionality of the Workmen's Compensation Act was questioned.  In that case it was held that the legislature under its "police power" had the right to enact laws which has for its purpose the protection of the public health, morals, safety and welfare, and that such enactment does not contravene the constitution of Article I, § 3 of the State Constitution or the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

             The decision in the cited case has been affirmed inSentell v. New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad Co., 166 U.S. 698;Shea v. Olson, 185 Wash. 143, 53 P. (2d) 615; State v. Sears, 4 Wn. (2d) 200, 103 P. (2d) 337;Boeing Aircraft Co. v. Department of Labor & Industries, 22 Wn. (2d) 423, 156 P. (2d) 640.

             It is, therefore, our opinion and you are accordingly advised that the Department of Labor & Industries has the right to collect from a principal contractor, all premiums due the accident and medical aid funds for work performed under an original or sub‑contract involving extra-hazardous employment and the contractor or sub‑contractor in turn shall be entitled to collect from his subordinate contractor his proportionate amount of the payment.

 Very truly yours,
SMITH TROY
Attorney General

BERNARD A. JOHNSON
Assistant Attorney General

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