Construction Fall accidents typically involve a falling worker or a falling object. An injured construction worker who seeks a recovery for his injuries does not have to perform work at a large project to be provided protection under the law. A recent case involved a kitchen plumbing supply company employee. The employee’s job assignment was to run thermostat cable wiring through a wall on a building’s second floor. The employee typically worked at the building as a salesman. While performing this work, he stepped on a thin piece of Styrofoam. The Styrofoam covered a rectangular duct opening in the floor. As a result, the Styrofoam broke beneath him. He therefore fell approximately 15 feet to the building’s first floor.
Worker’s Protection from Falls Under Labor Law Section 240(1)
Labor Law § 240(1) protects construction workers from gravity-related risks, including construction falls. Workers under this law have protection from falls from a height. They also have protection from injuries resulting from falling objects. The statute states construction site owners and general contractors are strictly liable for violations of this law. An owner does not have to control the work to be responsible under the law. In addition, when there is a violation of the law, the Court does not consider an injured worker’s comparative fault. This makes this statute very plaintiff-friendly.
However, there are limits to this statute. Under this law, the construction worker must show he or she was engaged in a “covered activity”. There are limitations to what is a “covered activity” involves. Covered work includes demolition work or the construction of a new building. However, maintenance work such as changing a light bulb is not covered work. In this case, the injured worker sued the building owner under Labor Law § 240(1).
Appellate Court’s Decision
At a very early stage of this litigation, before depositions, the plaintiff (worker) moved for summary judgment. This is a special request asking a judge to assign the responsibility for an accident to the sued party. The trial judge granted his claim against the defendant – the building owner. The defendant appealed, arguing discovery did not take place. The appellate court agreed with the trial judge and approved the lower court’s decision.
The court reasoned defendant failed to show how further discovery reveals or leads to relevant evidence. Also, the court stated the defendant did not show how facts to oppose the motion were exclusively within plaintiff’s control. According to the appellate court, the injured worker had protection under Labor Law § 240(1). To establish a violation of the law, a worker must first demonstrate he was engaged in a “covered activity” defined by the statute. Also, a worker must show the property owner, its contractor or its agent failed to provide a safety device necessary to protect workers from elevation related risks. In addition, the injured worker must show the failure was a proximate cause of his accident and injuries.
Defendant did not Protect Worker from Construction Fall
Although not discussed by the court, the injured worker’s job at the time of his accident was a “covered activity” within the meaning of Labor Law § 240(1). The plaintiff’s work, involving installing cable wiring through a wall, was an “alteration” of a structure. The courts consider this type of work a “significant physical change” to the building. An alteration is a “covered activity” under the statute.
Here, the appellate court held plaintiff’s evidence established a violation of Labor Law §240(1). His fall through an opening in the floor where a safety device was necessary to protect him from falling violated the statute. The plaintiff successfully established this violation, as his fall through the opening resulted from an elevation related hazard that caused his injuries. In opposition, the defendant failed to offer any evidence that refuted the plaintiff’s showing of a Construction Law §240(1) violation. In conclusion, the plaintiff established the building owner was responsible for his injuries based on a Labor Law § 240(1) violation.
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Construction Fall Accident
This case shows how important it is to have proper safety devices at construction sites to protect workers from falling accidents. If you work at a construction site where adequate safety devices are not in place or are not provided at all, it becomes more likely that you are injured. New York State laws protect workers by finding a building owner or contractor liable for a worker’s injuries. This is caused when a building owner fails to provide proper safety devices. When you are in a construction fall accident, contact a personal injury attorney who handles construction accidents as soon as possible. We we will take the necessary steps to prove a building owner or contractor responsible for violating the law.