A laborer working at a shopping center under renovation sustained a construction truck accident. Partial demolition occurred before renovation could begin. The laborer sprayed the site with water from a water truck to control dust during the demolition work. The man sustained personal injuries when he drove the water truck, filled with 5,000 gallons of water, over a concrete slab. The slab, which constituted the concrete flooring of the existing structure, gave way under the weight of the water truck. The front end of the truck fell through to the basement level.
The Construction Accident Lawsuit
The man sued the general contractor to recover damages for personal injuries in the construction truck accident, asserting causes of action alleging violations of Labor Law §200, §240(1), and §241(6), and common-law negligence. The general contractor filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim. The lower court granted defendant’s motion and dismissed the construction truck accident lawsuit. Plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the Second Department upheld the lower court’s decision in the scope of defendant’s liability under Labor Law §240(1). Where there is no statutory violation, or where a plaintiff is the sole cause of his or her own injuries, there can be no recovery. However, the Court disagreed with part of lower court’s determination in the construction truck accident case. Defendant failed to establish that plaintiff’s conduct of driving over the concrete slab was the sole cause of the accident. Defendant did, however, establish that no Labor Law §240(1) safety devices would have protected plaintiff.
The Second Department also held that defendant established its prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. It dismissed the cause of action alleging a violation of Labor Law §241(6). The Second Department held that defendant demonstrated the provisions of the Industrial Code relied on by plaintiff did not apply. The hazard arose from the injured plaintiff’s actual performance of the demolition work itself. It did not arise from structural instability caused by the progress of the demolition.
Should the Truck Accident Case Be Dismissed?
The Second Department held, however, that defendant failed to establish its prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. It dismissed the causes of action alleging a violation of Labor Law §200 and common-law negligence in the truck accident case. The Court explained that to be held liable under Labor Law §200 for injuries arising from the manner in which work is performed, a defendant must have authority to exercise supervision and control over the work. The Appellate Court pointed out that “where a plaintiff’s injuries arise not from the manner in which the work was performed, but from a dangerous condition on the premises, a defendant may be liable under this provision of the statute if it either created the dangerous condition that caused the accident or had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.”
The Court further explained that defendant should have examined the construction truck accident Complaint to identify theories of liability, in order to properly direct proof to premises issues, or means and methods issues. In this case, plaintiff in his Complaint alleged both premises liability and means and methods liability. With respect to premises liability, plaintiff alleged that the concrete slab constituted a trap. With respect to means and methods liability, plaintiff alleged that defendant supervised, controlled, and directed the work performed.
The Legal Standard for Construction Accidents
To establish their prima facie entitlement to summary judgment, defendant needed to address the proof applicable to both liability standards. On its motion, defendant addressed the means and methods allegation. It contended that it only had general supervisory authority for the purpose of overseeing the progress of the work. It also inspected the work product. This is insufficient to impose liability for common-law negligence and under Labor Law §200. The Court found, however, that defendant failed to address whether it either created the alleged dangerous condition that caused the construction truck accident or had actual or constructive notice of it.
Accordingly, the Second Department modified the lower court’s decision, and the case was remanded to the trial court on the remaining claims. If you sustain a construction truck accident, contact an experienced attorney today.