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New York Construction Accident Law-Worker Suffers Injury In Fall

In Cordeiro v. TS Midtown Holdings, LLC, et al., The New York Appellate Division, First Department on September 15, 2011, granted plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment as to liability on their Labor Law § 240(1) claim.

The plaintiff sustained injury while preparing to remove elevator equipment from a building owned and managed by defendants by hoisting it through hatchway doors connecting a motor room with the floor below it. As plaintiff was sliding open the latch to the doors, they unexpectedly opened, causing him to fall to the floor below. Despite the fact that the doors were a permanent fixture of the building The Court in granting the motion and reversing the lower Court held;

“Plaintiffs met their prima facie burden of establishing entitlement to partial summary judgment on their Labor Law § 240(1) claim. Although the doors through which plaintiff fell were a permanent fixture of the building, they were not a “normal appurtenance,” but rather, an access opening specifically built for the purpose of allowing workers to perform their work on the building elevators by hoisting materials to the building’s motor rooms (Brennan v RCP Assoc., 257 AD2d 389, 391 [1999], lv dismissed 93 NY2d 889 [1999]). Accordingly, we find that the hatch in this case was a “device” within the meaning of § 240(1) (see id.; Crimi v Neves Assoc., 306 AD2d 152, 153 [2003]). Further, plaintiff did not step onto hatchway doors that opened accidentally (compare Bonura v KWK Assoc., 2 AD3d 207 [2003], and Rodgers v 72nd St. Assoc., 269 AD2d 258 [2000]). Rather, plaintiff was required to open the doors in order to hoist up the governor from the 19th floor hallway below. This exposed plaintiff to a gravity-related risk of falling into the hallway from the motor room (see Godoy v Baisley Lbr. Corp., 40 AD3d 920 [2007]).”

The Court also rejected the sole proximate cause defense;

“In opposition, defendants failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of the accident (see Gallagher v New York Post, 14 NY3d 83, 88 [2010]; Blake v Neighborhood Hous. Servs. of N.Y. City, 1 NY3d 280, 289 n 8 [2003]; see also Miglionico v Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., 47 AD3d 561, 565 [2008]). Defendants did not submit any admissible evidence that plaintiff knew he should have used his safety harness under these circumstances, or that he knew his partner had a suitable 50-foot lifeline to which the harness could have been attached. While defendants argue that plaintiff could have tied his six-foot lanyard to a nearby beam or staircase, no evidence, expert or lay, was submitted that either of these options were appropriate anchorage sites (see Miglionico, 47 AD3d at 564-565). Accordingly, plaintiffs were entitled to partial summary judgment as to liability on their Labor Law § 240(1) claim.”

Further, The Court refused to dismiss plaintiffs’ 241(6) claim predicated on an alleged violation of Industrial Code (12 NYCRR) § 23-1.7(b)(1) regarding hazardous openings despite the fact that it was not specifically claimed until a third supplemental bill of particulars was served, without leave of court, after plaintiffs moved for summary judgment. The Court reasoned that;

“Supreme Court improperly dismissed plaintiff’s Labor Law § 241(6) claim to the extent it is based on an alleged violation of Industrial Code (12 NYCRR) § 23-1.7(b)(1). Plaintiffs first alleged this particular Code provision concerning hazardous openings in a third supplemental bill of particulars served, without leave of court, after plaintiffs moved for summary judgment. However, plaintiffs’ original bill of particulars claimed that defendants failed to adequately maintain the hatchway, causing plaintiff to fall when it suddenly opened. Accordingly, plaintiffs’ belated identification of 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(b)(1) “entails no new factual allegations, raises no new theories of liability, and has caused no prejudice to defendant[s]” (Noetzell v Park Ave. Hall Hous. Dev. Fund Corp., 271 AD2d 231, 233 [2000]; see Cevallos v Morning Dun Realty, Corp., 78 AD3d 547, 549 [2010]). Further, the provision is sufficiently specific to support a Labor Law § 241(6) claim (see Luckern v Lyonsdale Energy Ltd. Partnership, 281 AD2d 884, 886 [2001]), and issues of fact exist as to whether it was violated.”

The New York Construction Accident Attorneys at Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf have years of experience representing construction workers who have suffered injury and /or death in construction accidents in New York.