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New York Worker’s Labor Law Claim for Injuries Suffered While Replacing Light Strands Failed Because the Work Was Maintenance, Not Repair

When someone is hurt on the job, there are several possible legal remedies. Depending upon the situation, a Syracuse construction accident claim may be a viable option.

A claim for workers’ compensation benefits is another possibility, as is a labor law claim in some instances.

Talking with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you get started on the process of holding the responsible party accountable for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and other compensable losses.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was an independent contractor who was hired by the defendant merchants’ group (with the consent of the defendant city) to replace some strands of decorative lighting that had been placed around poles to create a brighter appearance in a certain neighborhood. Unfortunately, the 16-foot extension ladder from which the plaintiff was performing his work fell over, causing the plaintiff to be injured. After filing a timely notice of claim against the city, the plaintiff filed suit, asserting causes of action for negligence and violation of New York Labor Law § 240(1). After joinder of issue and the completion of discovery, both the plaintiff and the city moved for summary judgment.

The Supreme Court of Albany County granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment as to the city’s liability under § 240(1), and the city appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, modified the lower court’s order by reversing the lower court’s granting of partial summary judgment to the plaintiff and denying the city’s cross motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s labor law claim. According to the court, a worker who sought the protection of § 240(1) had to establish that he or she was involved in the repair of a structure. Even assuming arguendo that the light poles upon which the plaintiff was performing his work were a “structure,” in the court’s opinion the plaintiff’s work was not a “repair.” Rather, the plaintiff’s replacement of the lights strands due to the fact that numerous bulbs had burned out was “routine maintenance,” not a “repair.” Thus, the work performed by the plaintiff was not protected by § 240(1).

The court of appeals went on to further opine that, although the replacement of a light fixture on a lighting pole was a repair, the lights strands that the plaintiff was hanging were considered “fixtures” for purposes of the statute. The lights strands served a decorative purpose and did not form a part of the light poles (which had the primary purpose of providing illumination in the area). Because tasks associated with decorating a structure – rather than repairing a fixture – were not covered by the statute, the appellate court found that the lower tribunal was in error in granting summary judgment to the plaintiff on the issue of liability. Rather, the court held that summary judgment should have been granted to the city on the plaintiff’s § 240(1) claim.

Call a Syracuse Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been hurt while performing construction work, you need to talk to a lawyer about the process of pursuing fair compensation. To get started on your claim, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 and schedule an appointment. There is no charge for the consultation, so please do not delay in getting the legal advice that you need.

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