CASES OF INTEREST:
The statutory protections afforded by Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law often result in Summary Judgment motions. This is largely on account of the fact that there is no viable comparative fault claim against the injured worker under the statute. As a result, there is a large body of case law set forth by the higher courts in the various departments in New York (which are sometimes not in agreement) and of course a body of case law from the highest court in the State – the Court of Appeals. The case law further defines the scope and protections afforded to injured workers under the statute. Below are just a few of the cases of interest in the category of scaffold related accidents in New York State. There are cases coming down from the appellate divisions in New York weekly in the application of Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law, and anyone involved in a fall from a NYC scaffold must have the benefit of a lawyer who is fully familiar with the scaffold accident law in NYC as it continues to develop. These cases turn on key facts and the quality of representation makes a big difference in the outcome.
Bianca-Neto v. Boston Rd. II Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 2020 NY Slip Op 01116 (Court of Appeals)
Appellate Division reverses lower court’s dismissal of a case based upon section 240(1), where the injured worker was on a scaffold platform and climbed behind another worker onto a scaffold beam, unhooked his harness to climb into a window opening. The defendant claimed that there was a standing instruction not to enter the buildings though window openings and other methods of entry were available. Held by Appellate Division to be a question of fact as to workers’ understanding of standing instruction.
Saavedra v. 111 John Realty Corp., et al., 2020 NY Slip Op 00082 (First Department)
Worker entitled to summary judgment as to liability when it was undisputed that he fell when the scaffold he was working on collapsed. Defendant’s argument that the worker was warned not to use other trades scaffolding was merely an instruction to avoid an unsafe practice and this is not a sufficient substitute to the requirement to provide the worker with a safety device that allows him to complete his work safely.
Ferguson v. Durst Pyramid, LLC, et al., 2019 NY Slip Op 09388 (First Department)
Plaintiff who fell from an inverted bucket used as a means to access an elevated work platform entitled to summary judgment pursuant to Section 240(1) of the Labor Law. Held that the bucket was an inadequate safety device that failed to provide proper protection. There was a further finding that there were no available stairways or ramps to access the platform.
Gonzalez v. Romero, 2019 NY Slip Op 09149 (4th Department)
Singly family residence owner hired the plaintiff to stain the exterior of a barn to be used as a wedding and event center. Plaintiff used a ladder to access the scaffold, the scaffold collapsed establishing a prima facie violation of Section 240. The lower court dismissed the case, and the 4th Department Appellate Division reversed, holding that even though a single family, and even though the barn was used for personal storage, when there are mixed uses of a property, if the work is related to the future commercial use, the single family exception does not provide a defense. The defendants held liable as a matter of law.
Sanchez v. Bet Eli Co. Del. LLC, 2019 NY Slip Op 08275 (First Department)
Appellate Division upholds lower court’s granting of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, where plaintiff fell from a scaffold where there was no dispute that the scaffold supplied lack safety railings, and where the plaintiff was not provided with any other safety device. Furthermore, plaintiff was not required to show that the scaffold was defective in order to prevail.
Castro v. Malia Realty, LLC, 177 A.D.3d 58 (2019) (Second Department)
Plaintiff alleged that he fell 6 to 7 feet after a scaffold he was on collapsed. The case was pending in Queens County and the trial court rejected plaintiff’s request for a unified trial, and rather had the trial in a bifurcated manner (liability first and then if successful damages). The defendant claimed that the plaintiff did not fall from a scaffold, but rather hurt himself lifting boards. The plaintiff lost at trial, and appealed. The Appellate Division Second Department reversed and remanded the case for a new trial to be held in a unified manner as to liability and damages, as the plaintiff sought to introduce medical evidence supporting his claim that his injuries were consistent with his manner of accident (falling from a scaffold) as opposed to defendant’s contentions.
Roblero v. Bais Ruchel High School, Inc., 175 A.D.3d 1446 (2019) (Second Department)
Plaintiff fell from a scaffold while performing plumbing work on a building owned by the defendant. The plaintiff was not wearing a harness or lanyard. The defendant’s attempt to establish the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of his accident was rejected.
Wolf v. Ledcor Construction Inc., 175 A.D.3d 927 (2019) (Fourth Department)
Plaintiff prevailed as a matter of law on his Section 240(1) violation, when the Baker’s Scaffold he was standing on wheel fell into a floor drain that was covered, which caused the scaffold to tip over. Held that it was not “so placed” to provide proper protection.
Carpentieri v. 309 Fifth Ave., LLC, 2020 Slip Op 01269 (2020) (First Department)
Painter who fell from scaffold four feet off the ground when top plank flipped upwards while applying tape to a light fixture in preparation to a painting project entitled to judgement as a matter of law on Section 240(1) claim. Defendant’s testimony that observations of another type of scaffold that was not defective some time after the accident does not create a question of fact to defeat plaintiff’s claim.
Vohra v. Mount Sinai Hosp., 2020 NY Slip Of 01024 (2020) (First Department)
Summary Judgment motion granting plaintiff liability when injured while dismantling a scaffold affirmed.
Due to several factors, workers injured in falls from scaffolds in New York have some of the most valuable personal injury cases in the State. For this reason it is critical to select the right firm that understands construction related accidents and the application of the New York State Labor law in order to achieve a finding of liability, and hopefully in this category of accident as a matter of law. A lawyer’s knowledge of this body of law is critical in achieving liability pursuant to Section 240(1) of the New York State Labor Law. Once liability is established on summary judgment, the value of the case increases significantly, as interest begins to accrue from the date of the award and there is no longer any potential defense to the claim other than arguments as to the extent of injury and damages. It therefore also important to select a lawyer that not only can navigate the liability issues, but also a law firm that is fully capable of maximizing the presentation of damages. Injured construction workers are often unable to return to work in the same capacity and therefore there are significant life long economic losses that must be presented with the proper experts, including economists and vocational rehabilitation experts. The lawyer must also be fully familiar with the intricacies of the lawsuit’s reconciliation with the workers’ compensation claim. As a lawyer, I have dedicated much of my focus to the successful representation of construction related accidents. Our law firm prides ourselves for going the extra mile for any injured construction worker. If you or someone or someone you care for has been injured in a scaffold related accident, please contact our office without hesitation.