A worker sustained construction site injuries after falling from an unsecured ladder during the renovation of a Manhattan apartment building. The building owner hired the worker’s employer to do renovation work inside five apartments. The worker filed a lawsuit against the building owner pursuant to the law governing construction accidents in New York. With very extensive construction site injuries the worker claimed in the lawsuit that the building owner failed to provide him with proper safety devices. His employer gave him a shaky ladder that was not secured. Nor was a coworker holding it. The injured worker testified during his deposition that he was performing carpentry work at the time of this accident.
On the day of the accident, the worker’s supervisor told him to place double sheetrock from the height of the ceiling in the apartment to the top. The company was installing the sheetrock for fireproofing reasons. The dropped ceiling was 10 feet above the floor. The worker was placing the sheetrock 11 to 12 feet above the floor. To install the sheetrock, the worker used a 6-foot A-frame aluminum ladder provided by his employer. He set it up on the floor and moved it several times during his work. The worker said no other ladders were at the site. But he conceded seeing workers from other companies using different ladders. The ladder wobbled when the worker previously used it, but he never complained to his supervisor about the ladder.
The Construction Site Accident
To install the double sheetrock into the ceiling, the worker needed to stand on the first rung below the top of the ladder. At the time of the accident, the worker had to remove a piece of metal, fastened by a screw. While removing the screw, the ladder moved to the side causing the worker to fall in the opposite direction. Both the worker and the ladder fell to the ground. His co-worker was inside the same room as the injured worker when he sustained his construction site injuries.
The injured worker asked the judge to find the building owner at fault for the accident. Labor Law § 240(1) protects workers from gravity-related risks such as falling from a height or being struck by a falling object when they are engaged in specific construction activities. The statute states construction site owners and general contractors are strictly liable for violations of Labor Law § 240(1). This is whether or not they controlled the work. The worker argued he was entitled to relief for his construction site injuries, since he was engaged in an activity covered under this statute. He claimed the property owner failed to provide him proper safety devices to protect him while working at a height.
Was the Worker the Sole Cause of his Accident?
The building owner opposed his request. It argued there was a question of whether the worker was the sole proximate cause of his accident (meaning his actions alone were the cause of the accident). The building owner argued the worker misused the ladder by standing on the rung below the top of the ladder. A jury could determine that this misuse was the reason for the accident. They also argued the worker could have had his co-worker, who was in the same room as him, hold the ladder while he was performing his work.
The court found that the building owner was at fault under the law for causing this accident. In doing so, the court assessed automatic liability against this entity. The worker stood on the ladder when it moved to the side. Therefore, the court held the ladder was not a proper safety device.
Here, there was no evidence that the worker was using the ladder improperly. Evidence that he improperly used the ladder, at most this raised an issue of fact regarding his comparative negligence. This is not a defense to a Labor Law § 240(1) claim. Accordingly, the building owner was responsible for violated the statute. The Court sent the worker’s case to trial on the issue of damages only. The Platta Law Firm attorneys can handle cases involving any type of construction accident. Give us a call today for a free consultation regarding your construction site injuries.