All contractors and owners and their agents, except owners of one and two-family dwellings who contract for but do not direct or control the work, in the erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure shall furnish or erect, or cause to be furnished or erected for the performance of such labor, scaffolding, hoists, stays, ladders, slings, hangers, blocks, pulleys, braces, irons, ropes, and other devices which shall be so constructed, placed and operated as to give proper protection to a person so employed.
This statute places the burden upon owners of construction projects (except owners of one and two family dwellings who do not direct or control the work) and general contractors to provide proper protection to workers working at an elevated height, such as a ladder. The liability of the owner and the general contractor is independent of their actual fault. The liability is actually imposed by statute.
Common type of ladder accidents involve ladders that are not properly secured, and ladders that slip out at the bottom or ladders falling sideways off the structure, ladders falling backwards or even ladders shaking and unstable or unsecured which in turn causes a worker to lose balance and fall. Given the significant safety issues with the use of ladders, the United States Department of Labor – OSHA has set up a comprehensive standard for use of ladders in the work space. A small number of accidents actually involve broken ladders.
Falls from standing ladders, extension ladders, A-Frame ladders all fall within the protections of Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor law.
In order to qualify for a possible 240(1) type of case, the worker must be engaged in the “erection, demolition, repairing, altering, painting, cleaning or pointing of a building or structure.”
One must remember that when involved in a work related accident, the worker always has a workers’ compensation claim. Often in ladder accidents, the employer is the one who is actively at fault. However, Section 11 of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law prohibits a worker from suing an employer for negligence. Therefore, as long as there was a general contractor that was not an employer, or an owner that is not an owner of a one or two family structure, there is a defendant that is responsible in a third party action under Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
Another critical fact is that the injured workers’ negligence is not taken into account, unless it is determined that there was no violation of the statute and the workers’ negligence amounted to the sole cause of the accident. If there is a violation of the statute, then by law, the worker cannot be found to be the sole cause of the accident. In short, in order to prove a violation of the statute is that the ladder in question failed to provide proper protection.
Our firm has successfully represented workers falling from various heights (no specific height requirement under law) from standing ladders, A-frame ladders, and extension ladders.
A large percentage of 240(1) ladder accident cases in New York result in motions made to the court to have the statute applied as a matter of law (Summary Judgment Motion). Often the plaintiff can win their liability case as a matter of law before the judge, and then the case proceeds to a jury trial on damages only. For this reason, there are many cases which are the subject of appeal, and the body of case law (a small portion of which are discussed below) creates an ever changing landscape in the scope and protection of this statute. For this reason there is no substitute for a law firm fully familiar with ladder accidents in New York City and New York State.
If you or someone you care for has been injured due to a fall from a ladder in the City of New York or State of New York, please contact our office without hesitation for a free no obligation consultation. It is our privilege to be of service to New York Construction Tradesman.