A roofer sustained an injury in a roofing accident at a city school in Queens. The school was undergoing heavy renovation. This included masonry work, replacement of parapets, roof replacement, electrical work, and interior renovation. The roofer was working for a subcontractor hired by the New York City School Construction Authority. On the day of his accident, his supervisor directed the roofer’s work. He told the roofer to go onto the roof of a bulkhead and install metal coping.
The Roofing Accident
The roofing accident occurred on a bulkhead on the roof. The roof of the bulkhead was approximately fifteen (15) feet above the surface of the main roof. His supervisor told him to use an extension ladder to reach the bulkhead. This extension ladder was the only way to access the top of the bulkhead. The ladder was only tied off on one side. Before his work, the roofer asked the ladder to be tied off on both sides. His supervisor told him that he would need to tell those who installed the ladder to secure it. He added that the ladder could not be tied off on both sides, because there was nothing to tie it off to.
As the roofer was finishing up for the night, he began to descend the ladder to come down from the bulkhead. He grabbed the top of the ladder and brought his left foot around and placed it on the first rung. As he brought his right foot around to place on the same rung of the ladder, the ladder suddenly moved to the right and backward (off the bulkhead). When the ladder swung to the right and back, the roofer’s left foot came off the rung of the ladder. He fell down and landed on the roof below. As a result of this accident, he suffered serious injuries. This included a calcaneus fracture which required open reduction, internal fixation surgery to his foot. He also suffered herniations to the lumbar spine which required a surgical fusion.
The Roofer’s Lawsuit
The roofer sued the City, Department of Education, and the School Construction Authority (“the defendants”) for his roofing accident. Following the discovery phase of this case, the injured roofer asked the judge to assess liability against these three defendants. The worker relied on a law that says construction site owners and general contractors are strictly liable for falls off of ladders. This law applies even if the owner and contractor do not control the work being performed.
The injured roofer argued that the ladder he was provided – which shifted and moved while he was descending – was not properly secured for the work he was performing, and the defendants failed to provide him with a proper safety device from which to perform his work. This defective ladder caused the roofing accident. The defendants argued that the roofer had told his supervisor a different version of how the accident occurred. This “different version” was included in his accident report. The supervisor said that the roofer said he lost his balance when he was descending the ladder. As a result of losing his balance, he jumped off the ladder. The defendants argued that the supervisor’s testimony essentially created two versions of the accident. They argued that this created an issue of fact that only a jury could decide at trial.
In reply, the roofer argued that even if every word of the supervisor’s testimony were believed, the “two versions” of how the roofer’s accident occurred were not actually inconsistent. The supervisor said the roofer told him that he lost his balance. He, however, did not mention whether he asked him what caused him to lose his balance. The roofer argued that he lost his balance because the ladder shifted. Accordingly and that version and the supervisor’s version of the accident were not inconsistent. The supervisor’s version was just incomplete.
The Judge’s Decision
The Court found this argument convincing, and consistent with applicable case law. Accordingly, the judge granted the injured roofer’s request and assessed liability against the defendants in this case. He remanded the case to trial on the issue of damages only. That means that the jurors at the time of trial will only decide the amount of compensation and deliberate solely as to how much each injury is worth. They would not have to decide who was at fault for the accident. Additionally, every time a judge assesses liability against a defendant in any accident case, interest begins to accrue. The injured party will receive 9% annual interest on any compensation the jury awards. Our personal injury lawyers at The Platta Law Firm are experts in the field of roofing accidents. We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a roofing accident, please contact our experienced lawyers today.