Long, long ago, in a galaxy far far away, the planet of Tatooine apparently did not have any laws on employee safety or premise liability.
Jabba the Hutt’s Palace would make thousands of OSHA inspectors scream out in horror, then nothing.
Jabba’s safety standards raise many issues as they related to employees (such as the guard who fell in the Rancor Pit), independent contractors (Boba Fett) and those held in servitude (Oola, the green dancing girl fed to the Rancor & Princess Leia).
Employers’ Duty to Employees
Provided the Old Republic had similar employee protection laws to the United States, an employer:
(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
29 USCS § 654(a).
Additionally, floors with holes that “persons can accidentally walk” into (such as on a construction site) must be guarded by a railing or cover. W. C. Sivers Co. (1972) OSHRC Docket No. 239, 1973-1974 CCH OSHD P 17792, 29 CFR 1926.500(b)(8).
The Trap Door to The Rancor Pit
Jabba the Hutt used a trap door to 1) dispose of Oola, the dancer who displeased Jubba and 2) attempt to eliminate Luke Skywalker, accidentally sending a guard to be a snack for the Rancor.
Oola’s case highlights several issues: She was held in Jabba’s Palace against her will and then fed to the Rancor.
Jabba’s actions would range from holding someone in slavery (which apparently was legal on Tatooine) to outright murdering her.
Jabba’s Palace Guard who fell in the Rancor Pit with Luke Skywalker was owed a duty by Jubba to be free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
However, as a palace guard, he also assumed the risk the different dangers that came with the job. With that said, being a palace guard does not mean he assumed the risk of falling through a trap door and being eat alive by the Rancor.
Even if the Guard could have assumed the risk of falling down the trap door, the Rancor was a wild animal (See, Wookieepedia). Case law has found that an owner of property can be liable for injuries under premises liability for a free roaming wild animal on their property provided they have knowledge of the dangerous animal. (See, The Landings Ass’n, Inc. v. Williams, 736 S.E.2d 140 (Ga. Ct. App. 2012), regarding knowledge of an alligator in a lagoon that injured someone). In Jubba’s case, the Rancor was imported to Tatooine to be used as an execution weapon in a pit. It certainly was not free roaming, but purposely contained because it was dangerous. It was highly foreseeable that the creature could accidentally eat the wrong person.
The Independent Contractor & The Sarlacc Pit
Boba Fett was an independent contractor, because he was a bounty hunter not directly employed by Jabba the Hutt. In the universe of premises liability, independent contractors are viewed as business invitees. Taylor v. Nabors Drilling United States, LP, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14555, at *5 (S.D. Miss. Feb. 4, 2013).
What duty was Boba Fett owed by Jabba while on the Barge over the Sarlacc Pit?
A case involving an injury on an oil rig is illustrative, if we view Jabba’s barge over the Sarlacc Pit like an oil rig at sea.
Jabba as a premises owner (the barge, not the sand dunes) had a general duty to “provide an independent contractor with a reasonably safe work environment or give warning of danger.” Taylor, at *5, citing Nofsinger v. Irby, 961 So. 2d 778, 781 (Miss. Ct. App. 2007).
However, Jabba as a premises owner was not, “an insurer of the [independent contractor’s] safety.” Taylor, at *5, citing Coho Res., Inc. v. McCarthy, 829 So. 2d 1, 10 (Miss. 2002). However, “there are exceptions to the general rule, which can be reduced to two issues: who controls the work which caused the injury, and whether the contractor had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard which caused the injury.” Taylor, at *5, citing Coho Res., Inc. v. McCarthy, 829 So. 2d 1, 10 (Miss. 2002).
Case law states that when the premises owner “devolves upon the contractor the right and fact of control of the premises and the nature and details of the work, the owner has no liabilities for injuries experienced by the contractor’s workers where those injuries arose out of or were intimately connected with the work.” Taylor, at *5.
A premises owner is “not liable for the death or injury of an independent contractor or his employees resulting from dangers that the contractor, as an expert, knows or reasonably should know.” Taylor, at *6, citing McCarthy, 829 So. 2d at 14. The Taylor Court went on to state:
Phrased differently, a premises owner will not be held liable where an independent contractor has “assumed the risk” of danger. Stokes, 217 F.3d at 357. Accordingly, an “employer is relieved of the duty of informing an independent contractor of a danger at the work site if the independent contractor knows of that danger.” Nofsinger, 961 So. 2d at 781.The “knowledge of the danger” exception . . . does not require such a close nexus between the dangerous condition and the work the contractor is obligated to perform. That rule rests on the premise that under circumstances where the contractor has knowledge of the condition, his ability to avoid the harm is equal to that of the owner of the premises. The ability of the contractor to avoid injury where he knows that a dangerous condition exists does not depend on his control over the manner in which the work is performed or his reason for being on the premises. Stokes, 217 F.3d at 359.
Boba Fett was the adult clone of Jango Fett, trained as an expert bounty hunter. Given his skill as a warrior-for-hire, he assumed the risk of engaging Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca in battle over the Sarlacc Pit. As such, Jabba owed Boba Fett no duty under premises liability for any injuries sustained in the Sarlacc Pit.
Rancors’ Rights: Possible Episode VII Plot Ideas
The New Republic may mean the end of Slave Leia outfits, but what about the Rankors of the universe? Will the outlawing of slavery in the New Republic mean these creatures could still be held against their will for brutal entertainment? Let’s review one California case for a possible outcome.
Plaintiffs in California brought a Next Friends case on behalf of orca whales held at Sea World, claiming the whales’ 13th Amendment rights were being violated. Tilikum v. Sea World Parks & Entm’t, Inc., 842 F. Supp. 2d 1259, 1262-1264 (S.D. Cal. 2012).
That’s right, the Killer Whales were the Plaintiffs.
After lengthy historical analysis, the Court held the 13th Amendment applied only to persons, not non-humans. Tilikum, at *1263.
In the case of the Rancors, it is unlikely a law prohibiting slavery would apply to them, as they were simply eating machines. As such, the New Republic would need specific legislation to ensure the safe and humane treatment of Rancors.