New York property owners and contractors employing laborers working at elevation must make sure the workers are given proper protection or be subjected to “absolute” liability should the worst happen.
I had a client who was a New York apprentice laborer working on the construction site of a charter school. While climbing the ladder in the proper manner and reaching the top rung, the ladder swayed and my client fell more than one story to the floor below, hitting a metal toolbox on his way down to the floor. His injuries were extensive – his body broken. His family, including his infant son, was left without insurance because he could no longer work. He underwent many surgeries to repair his broken back. I sued the owner and general contractor on his behalf, claiming that they failed to supply him with sufficient safety equipment.
Workers like my client who fall from elevation are protected by NY Labor Law § 240(1), which holds contractors and property owners responsible for failing to provide their workers with proper protection when working with ladders, scaffolds, hoists and other methods where workers labor at elevation. That law subjects owners and contractors to liability as a matter of law, for any injuries that result from such failure since workers are scarcely in a position to protect themselves from accident. In fact, the Court of Appeals interpreted the section in Rocovich v. Consolidated Edison Co., imposing “absolute liability” for a breach which caused an injury – even if the worker himself was somehow negligent.
Within a year, my team and I worked up the case to the point where, close to a year after the accident, we mediated the matter and secured a seven-figure settlement for our client.
The lesson NY property owners and general contractors can learn from this is that laborers should be given every available manner of safety equipment if s/he is going to be working at any level above the ground.
*Gene Berardelli may be contacted at: GeneBerardelli@ipglegal.com
Gene is a New York street-smart attorney with an extreme passion for success. Gene specializes in litigation, arbitration and general corporate law for New York-based and international clients. He, also, is the host of a popular New York talk radio program.
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