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High Fall Accident

high-falls-accident

Accidents resulting from objects that fall from high heights cause serious injuries. Because of this, developers and contractors must provide workers with overheard protection. A worker was leveling pre-cast concrete planks as part of the construction of a seven-story building in Brooklyn.  He sustained an injury when a concrete plank fell on to his hands. The plank fell while it was being hoisted by a Jack. The plank that fell on the worker weighed approximately 2,000 pounds.

The High Fall Object Lawsuit

The injured man hired an attorney to litigate his accident from the object high fall accident. The injured man sued the owner and the general contractor to recover damages for sustained injuries, asserting violations of the scaffold law.
 
Following discovery, the plaintiff worker moved for summary judgment on the issue of defendants’ liability under the scaffold law. He argued that the jack used to lift the concrete plank did not properly protect him from the elevation-related hazard. He also argued that the plank should have been secured while he was performing the task of leveling the planks. The judge agreed with the worker. Accordingly, the judge granted the plaintiff worker’s motion. Defendants appealed.

The High Fall Accident Appeal

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision. The appellate court decided that plaintiff established his entitlement to summary judgment. He successfully demonstrated that he performed covered work under the statute. He also established that defendants proximately caused his injuries. They failed to provide an adequate safety device of the kind enumerated in the statute.

In addition, the appellate court held that defendants failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff’s conduct was the sole proximate cause of the accident. Defendants argued that plaintiff sustained injuries solely due to his actions.  In support of this argument, defendants submitted a written statement from the plaintiff’s employer. The statement indicated that his investigation of the high fall accident revealed that the plaintiff failed to follow the instruction of his foreman to stop working. Instead the worker continued to raise the jack to its maximum level in contravention of the foreman’s instructions. 

Is There an Issue of Fact?

However, the appellate court held that the statement did not raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff’s actions constituted the sole proximate cause of the accident. The employer’s written statement was unsworn and thus not in admissible form. Moreover, the appellate court added that the employer’s deposition testimony constituted hearsay. He merely recounted what he learned from interviewing the plaintiff’s foreman, who did not witness the accident.  The appellate court pointed out that although hearsay evidence may be considered in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, such evidence alone is not sufficient to defeat the motion. Defendants failed to submit any other admissible evidence in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion. Accordingly, they failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff’s alleged failure to follow his foreman’s instructions constituted the sole proximate cause of his injuries.

Further, the appellate court held that plaintiff established that the sued contractor served as the general contractor on this construction project within the meaning of the scaffold law. It had the authority to enforce safety standards and choose responsible subcontractors. The appellate court held that under the scaffold law, a defendant is deemed a general contractor if it had the authority to exercise control over the work. It is irrelevant whether the general contractor actually exercised that right. Moreover, defendant’s managing partner testified at his deposition that defendant was the general contractor. He also contracted with the plaintiff’s employer and other subcontractors to perform the construction work. He also testified the he and his partner were present at the work site at various times. 

The Decision in the High Fall Accident

Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision granting plaintiff summary judgment under the scaffold law. If you are involved in an accident, involving an object that falls from a high height, contact the experienced attorneys at The Platta Law Firm.