A New York Construction Accident Lawyer Who Represents Injured Workers Tracking Developments in Construction Accident Law.

The Appellate Division, First Department, has recently further defined the circumstances when a subcontractor will be liable under Labor Law 240 and 241 for a New York construction accident. In brief, if the subcontractor has the authority to supervise or control the accident-causing operation or the work area where the accident happened, it may be liable. (The case is Nascimento v. Bridgehampton Construction Corporation).

In this case, a worker fell while descending an extension ladder, when the unsecured extended portion of it suddenly slid down. The plaintiff sued the general contractor, a subcontractor, and a sub-subcontractor. The plaintiff was employed by the company at the end of this chain, a fourth contractor that performed the framing work.

The Court observed that not each and every subcontractor in the chain of employers will be liable under the Labor Law. The standard is whether the subcontractor had the authority to supervise and control the work giving rise to the accident, rendering it the general contractor’s “statutory agent.” In a bit of convoluted logic, the court then defined a statutory agent as an entity that has been “delegated the supervision and control either over the specific work area involved or the work which gave rise to the injury.” If the subcontractor only controls a different area of the work site than where the accident occurred, there is no liability.

Here, according to the subcontractor, the contract between it and the sub-subcontractor did not establish that the subcontractor had authority over the accident location. However, the court held that the subcontract between these entities delegated the authority to supervise the work to the sub-subcontractor and from this it could reasonably be inferred that the subcontractor initially had this authority. Moreover, “once a subcontractor qualifies as a statutory agent, it may not escape liability by the simple expedient of delegating that work to another entity.”

This is a good decision. It establishes that any company that is responsible for an activity or work area must also be held liable for accidents under its umbrella.

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