In New York, pursuant to sections 200, 240 and 241(6) of the New York State Labor Law, a construction worker involved in a work related accident, in addition to a workers’ compensation claim, may also have a third‑party law suit (a regular lawsuit) against the general contractor and/or owner of the construction site. A direct cause of action may also exist against another contractor to the extent that the other contractor was at fault for the happening of the accident.
Section 200 of the New York State Labor law essentially codifies a common law obligation of reasonable care in the maintenance of the work site.
Section 241(6) of the New York State Labor law imposes a non-delegable duty upon the general contractor and/or owner to comply with all provisions of the New York State Industrial Code with language that sets forth specific requirements.
Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor law provides under certain circumstances near strict liability as against the owner of a qualified property and the general contractor for a worker falling from a height (from a ladder, scaffold, unprotected opening, or off the side of a building a structure), or material that falls upon a worker that is either being hoisted or should be secured for the undertaking.
In New York a construction worker involved in a work related accident in addition to a workers’ compensation claim, may also have a third party lawsuit pursuant to common law principles of negligence against other contractors, product liability cases arising from defective products, or liability imposed upon the general contractor and/or the owner of the site (regardless of their active wrongdoing) imposed by the New York State Labor Law.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits:
When involved in a construction related accident in NYC and New York State, the worker always has a workers’ compensation claim against the employer and their workers’ compensation carrier. In New York, Section 11 of the Workers’ Compensation Law limits workers compensation benefits as a remedy with respect to a claim against the employer or co-worker.
Third Party Lawsuit:
However, aside from a workers’ compensation claim, the injured construction worker may have a third party lawsuit as against the owner and general contractor pursuant to certain statutory non-delegable obligations imposed upon the owner of the site and general contractor. The injured worker may also have a claim against another contractor other than the employer based upon negligence. A third party action is in addition to a workers’ compensation claim, and for the most part is worth far more than the workers’ compensation claim due to the categories of damages recoverable in a regular lawsuit.
Labor Law Protections:
New York has some of the most protective laws on the books compared to other states with respect to the obligations of the owner and general contractor of a construction site.
The obligations as mentioned are non-delegable, which essentially means even if the obligations are delegated by contract or otherwise, the obligations imposed by law rest with the owner and general contractor.
240(1) Labor Law – Falling Worker or Material Falling from Height:
For example, Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law, imposes what can almost be described as strict liability upon the owner and general contractor for any type of fall from an elevated height from a ladder, scaffolding or other device meant to provide elevated protection with no specific height requirement. Section 240(1) also provides for liability for material being hoisted or secured falling upon or causing injury a worker. In this category of case, it does not matter who’s equipment was in use, and it does not matter if the injured workers was at fault (unless the defendant can prove the injured worker was solely responsible and no statutory violation has occurred). This category of case is largely won as a matter of law on a motion for Summary Judgment.
A Section 240 based case may allow the worker to obtain a finding of legal liability upon the owner and general contractor as a matter of law (before a case even goes to trial). In a Section 240 case there is no comparative fault upon the construction worker. Even if the injured worker was negligent, unless the negligence was the sole proximate cause of the accident, the comparative fault of the injured worker cannot be used to offset legal liability of the owner or general contractor.
Common categories of cases involving a violation of Section 240 of the New York State Labor Law includes falls from ladders, falls from scaffolding, falls from roofs, falls from buildings under construction without proper fall protection, falls within openings in floors on construction sites and other falls from heights (no specific height requirement) on a construction site. Section 240 also provides protection to workers for material being hoisted falling upon a worker or material falling that should have been secured for the purposes of the undertaking.
241(6) Labor Law – Violation of a Specific Provision of Industrial Code:
There is another category of case where the plaintiff can prove a violation of a Industrial Code provision, which imposes a specific requirement. This category of case is brought pursuant to Section 241(6) of the New York State Labor law as against the owner and general contractor.
241(6) cases commonly are trip and falls over debris or construction materials, trip and falls on pathways or work areas, injuries due to sharp projections; injuries from demolition, injuries due to improperly maintained equipment, such as saws without guards, electrical shocks, hand propelled vehicles, injuries related to concrete work, and injuries due to trenches.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely an example of the some of the common types of actionable accidents supported by a violation of an Industrial Code provision therefore permitting a third party action pursuant to New York State Labor Law 241(6).