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New York Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment to Construction Worker on Labor Law Claim

Construction workers face many dangers in the workplace, including the possibility of a fall if working on an elevated surface without the proper safety equipment. If a worker is hurt in such a situation, he or she should talk to an experienced Syracuse construction accident attorney about the process of holding the responsible party accountable for the worker’s injuries.

Such cases can be complicated, as there are several different laws that may come into play, and there may be multiple defendants (the employer, the building owner, the general contractor, etc.) who could potentially be liable.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was reportedly hurt when he fell from the scaffold of a building while performing plumbing work. He was not wearing a lanyard or harness at the time of the fall. The plaintiff filed suit against the owner of the building, asserting a common-law negligence claim, as well as violations of New York Labor Law §§ 200 and 240(1). The defendant then filed a third-party action against the plaintiff’s employer, seeking indemnification under a subcontract.

Following discovery, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment as to the issue of liability under § 240(1). The defendant filed its own motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of plaintiff’s § 200 claim and his common law negligence claim; the defendant also moved for summary judgment on its third-party complaint against the plaintiff’s employer. The trial court denied relief to the defendant but granted summary judgment to the plaintiff on his § 240(1) claim. The defendant appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department affirmed both the granting of the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and the denial of the defendant’s motion. The court began by pointing out that, under § 240(1), property owners and general contractors have a nondelegable duty to provide safety devices to those working on elevated work sites. A prima facie case for violation of the statute is made when, as here, a plaintiff establishes that the defendant violated its duty and this violation was the proximate cause of personal injuries. Notably, a worker’s own comparative fault is not a defense to a claim under the statute (although recovery is not available if the worker’s own conduct was the sole proximate cause of an accident).

With regard to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court held that the lower tribunal had ruled correctly in denying the motion, insomuch as the defendant had failed to eliminate all triable issues of fact with regard to whether it was acting as general contractor on the project in question and, as such, had the authority to control/supervise the manner in which the plaintiff performed his work.

Seek Legal Advice About a Syracuse Personal Injury Case

To talk to an experienced Syracuse construction accident attorney about seeking fair compensation for an accident at work, please phone the attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000. There is no fee to come in and talk to us about your claim, and, if necessary, we can travel to you for the consultation (also at no charge).

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