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Construction Site Fall Accident

Construction Site Fall Accidents

A man suffered construction site fall accident while working as an elevator mechanic. The man and his coworker, who was also an elevator mechanic, were repairing one of two elevators in a building.  This elevator shared a common shaft-way with another elevator that remained in operation.

The Construction Site Accident

The man’s construction site fall accident occurred after he left to make a telephone call. Upon returning to the elevators, he summoned the operational elevator.  He stepped partially into the shaft-way and looked up into the shaft way. Then he called out to his coworker located on top of the cab of the elevator under repair. He then asked him which floor the coworker was working on. As the coworker turned to answer, he knocked a tool off the top of that elevator’s cab. The tool fell and struck the main, injuring his right eye. The injured man (the plaintiff) sued the owner of the building, the City of New York, alleging violations of Labor Law §200 and §241(6).

Who’s to Blame for the Construction Accident?

Plaintiff argued that the defendant’s failure to install a vertical barrier between the two elevators sharing the shaft way in which he was working constituted violations of Labor Law §200 and §241(6). In addition, he argued that those violations proximately caused his accident and injuries. All witnesses who could recall the appearance and condition of the shaft-way agreed that there was no vertical barrier in place at the time of the accident.  After a trial, jury rendered a verdict on the issue of damages, awarding plaintiff $660,000.

The Construction Site Accident Appeals

Defendant appealed. The appellate court remanded the case for a new trial on the issue of liability. The jury reached the same verdict in the second trial. Subsequently, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict as contrary to the weight of the evidence and for a new trial. Defendant again filed an appeal.

On appeal, the appellate court found that a fair interpretation of the evidence supported the jury’s verdict. The defendant had the authority to supervise or control the work and was liable pursuant to Labor Law §200.   The appellate court further held that defendant failed to demonstrate that there was no valid line of reasoning by which the jury could have concluded that it had the authority to supervise or control the work.

The Decisions Regarding the Fall Accident

The Second Department also held that both a valid line of reasoning and a fair interpretation of the evidence supported the jury’s finding that defendant violated Labor Law §241(6). The Second Department held that Labor Law §241(6) “imposes a nondelegable duty of reasonable care upon owners and contractors to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to persons employed in, or lawfully frequenting, all areas in which construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed.”  

In addition, the appellate court pointed out that Section 23-2.5(b)(3) of the Industrial Code requires that “where any elevator is being installed, repaired or replaced and persons are working in the shaft, a solid or wire mesh partition shall be provided where necessary to prevent such persons from contacting any adjacent operable elevator or counterweight.”  

The appellate court held that the Industrial Code should be sensibly interpreted and applied to effectuate its purpose of protecting construction laborers against hazards on construction sites. The Court therefore reasoned that it is undisputed that no solid or wire mesh was provided in this instance. Mesh would have properly protected plaintiff from the hazard presented by tools falling down the elevator shaft.

How Much Interest?

However, the appellate court held the lower court erred in computing prejudgment interest amounted to over $218,000. The court erred in beginning its computation from March 2004, the date of the jury verdict on damages. The court did not establish liability at that time. The appellate court thus held that the lower court must calculate prejudgment from May 2011. This represented the date of the actual liability determination. The Court followed the majority approach based on previous decisions. These decisions held, that except in rare instances, prejudgment interest in bifurcated trials should be calculated from the date liability.

Therefore, the Second Department affirmed the lower court’s decision and amended it with regard to the interest amount. If you suffer a construction site fall accident contact an experienced attorney from our law firm today.