A 44-year old NYC worker was performing renovation work when he had a scaffolding accident. When the accident happened he was applying masking tape to windows of a residential building. This was to prepare for stripping and relacquering of brass components on the building’s façade. He was performing this work atop a six-foot aluminum rolling scaffold. While he was applying the tape, one of the boards that made up the floor of the scaffold slid backwards. Due to this, the worker fell from a height and was injured.
The Liability Portion of the Scaffolding Accident Case
The injured worker brought a lawsuit against the owner of the premises for his NYC scaffolding accident. Following discovery phase of litigation, the worker asked the court find the owner liable for violating New York’s Labor Law. He argued that when he was working at an elevated height on a scaffold, he was not provided safety equipment to prevent the slipping of the scaffold or to prevent his fall. The injured construction worker further stated the scaffold his employer owned was improperly secured. This caused his fall. As such he is a person that should be protected under Labor Law § 240. Under this law, an owner is strictly liable for his injuries under this statute.
The owner opposed this request. It argued the worker was engaged in “routine maintenance” work (which is not protected work under Construction Law). The owner claimed the worker’s job at the time of the incident did not require specialized equipment and was not related to a larger construction, renovation, or repair project. The owner also argued falling six to seven feet is not a significant elevation risk under Labor Law § 240.
The Court’s Decision
The Court granted the injured worker’s request. The Court said the worker was engaged in the covered work of “cleaning” at the time of his NYC scaffolding accident. He was “cleaning” because he was refinishing brass metal bands on the building façade. He was not doing routine maintenance of the brass metal bands at the time of his accident. There was no evidence submitted that the stripping and relacquering of the brass components was something that needed to be performed on a routine basis. In fact, the evidence demonstrated that this was a specialized cleaning work. As the construction worker was performing protected work at the time of his accident, the owner was required to provide him protection from height related risks, which they failed to do in this instance. The owner appealed the Court’s decision and the appellate court affirmed the lower Court’s decision.
The Damages Portion of the Scaffolding Accident Case
This case proceeded to trial on the issue of damages the worker suffered as a result of his NYC scaffolding accident. Before trial, the two sides engaged in settlement negotiations. The worker submitted evidence showing bulges in his back and neck at T7-8, C4-5 and C5-6. An MRI confirmed his injuries. His attorneys claimed his injuries would permanently cause extensive pain and limitations. As a result of these injuries, the worker missed an initial three-month period from work. He had about three years of physical therapy. The injured worker then had a second scaffold fall. The worker claimed the second accident injured the same parts of his body as those injured in his first accident.
Subsequently he had surgery to his back and neck. He stopped working a few months after the second fall. He submitted evidence that he was earning approximately $60,000 per year at the time.
The owner argued that any permanent injury and inability to work was related to the second accident only. The worker argued his first accident affected his ability to work. This was even if the second accident aggravated his injuries. He further argued the ankle sprain from the first accident caused difficulty ambulating and extensive pain. He required surgery before the second accident occurred. The case finally settled for $2,900,000 before trial.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a NYC scaffolding accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at [email protected], or visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927).